Teva Workers Threaten to “Break the Company”

Teva-Tech workers protesting outside the Teva-Tech factory in Ramat Hovav, near Be’er Sheva on Tuesday. (Dudu Greenspan/Flash90)
Teva-Tech workers protesting outside the Teva-Tech factory in Ramat Hovav, near Be’er Sheva on Tuesday. (Dudu Greenspan/Flash90)

Teva management’s soothing message that coming layoffs will not be as bad as media reports say evidently did not soothe those threatened with loss of their jobs, as Teva-Tech workers’ committee chairman Avraham Zohar threatened “to break the company,” Globes reported on Tuesday.

Much of the anger is related to salary inequalities. “In Petach Tikvah, there are employees with salaries from NIS 10,000 a month, and our CEO earns NIS 1.5 million a month; what is this? Everything is hallucinatory here,” Zohar told Army Radio.

“Guys, wake up. They want to destroy the workers’ committee and turn us into slaves. We won’t let this happen. We’ll go all the way. We’ll break the company once and for all. We’re not slaves,” Zohar said.

Zohar added that although “we can go on strike and shut the plant now, I waited for Ofer Eini.” Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini was slated to meet with Teva CEO Jeremy Levin to discuss the matter.

An estimated 700-1,000 employees could be laid off, though Teva says it won’t start until next year.

At a press conference he called ahead of the meeting Tuesday, Eini told reporters that he received a phone call from Finance Minister Yair Lapid on Monday evening, who told him that he “saw eye-to-eye” with the union chief on his opposition to the Teva firings.

Lapid said on Sunday that he had spoken with Levin about pursuing an agreement.

The government is under pressure to intervene on the grounds that, although Teva is a private company, as a recipient of tax breaks it must be sensitive to the impact of its decisions on the Israeli economy and workforce.

Eini also told reporters he believes the government should reinstate a clause in the Law on Encouragement of Capital Investments that puts restraints on layoffs by a company receiving tax exemptions.

“There’s no doubt that Teva is a successful company,” Eini said. “It’s a company that makes billions, and I am confident that at the end of the process we will be able to safeguard Teva employees and ensure that the company stays strong.”

Meanwhile, another management-labor wrangle flared up at Oil Refineries Ltd., as employees there vowed to fight a move to fire 240 employees.

Oil Refineries workers committee chairman Reuven Schwartzberg told Army Radio that the banks were endangering the stability of the company. “There are negotiations between management and banks on a debt settlement. We’ve invested here more than $500 million in expanding our output, and now that everything is ready, refining margins have narrowed across the energy market, in Israel and globally. We’d expect the banks to support the company at this time. After all, the margins will ultimately widen. I understand from the company that the negotiations with the banks are going nowhere. The workers have already done our bit to streamline, whether through vacation days and sick days, and waiving pay.”

On a third front, impatience with Israel Electric Company’s stalled reform program was voiced by Knesset Finance Committee Chairman, MK Avishay Braverman (Labor), who warned that the committee would not extend the IEC’s license in ten weeks if by then the reform in the electricity sector does not go into effect.

Braverman added, “As far as I’m concerned, there can be a total crisis and they can close the economy. Maybe then the government ministers will come to their senses and finish with the red tape.”

Braverman called on Lapid and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to act immediately to move the process forward.

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