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Industrial action by port workers has led to a backlog of 20 ships at Ashdod port and six ships at Haifa port waiting to unload their cargo, said Eitan Rapaport, president of the Shipping Association.

A spokeswoman for the Histadrut's Haifa branch said yesterday that output at the ports was "lower than usual," since no agreement had been reached with the Ports Authority regarding expected changes in their management structure. Each port will operate as an autonomous business unit.

The spokeswoman said that the port workers' concerns would be brought up tomorrow at a meeting between Histadrut Chairman MK Amir Peretz and Transport Minister Ephraim Sneh.

Rapaport called on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to bring about an agreement between the port workers and the Ports Authority. He said that trade to and from Israel has suffered a severe blow due to recent events and that sanctions at the ports have aggravated the situation, causing unestimable damage.