The Negev cities of Dimona, Yeruham and Arad went on a one-day strike Sunday to protest layoffs at Israel Chemicals, which they say will endanger the Dead Sea Works and the entire economy in the south.
“The Dead Sea is in danger,” declared Armond Lancry, head of the Dead Sea Factories workers union, at a large rally in Dimona.
Lancry laid the blame for the employment crisis directly on the party in power. “I’ve been a Likud central committee member for decades. It’s hard for me to support a party that doesn’t see the Negev as part of the state of Israel. That is why I plan on leaving the Likud,” he said.
“Mr. Prime Minister, you promised to become involved after the elections. Two months have passed and we have not seen you participate.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was reportedly increasing his participation on Sunday with a meeting scheduled with Dimona Mayor Benny Biton and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon later in the day.
Several opposition figures were at the rally, including Zionist Union Chairman Isaac Herzog, MK Shelly Yachimovich and Yisrael Beitenu MKs Sopha Landver and Sharon Gal.
Zvika Galron, who was fired from his job at Dead Sea Works, told Globes, “Feelings are hard. There are people here who are candidates for being laid off who feel that their life’s work has collapsed. We gave the works our souls for 30 years, and after all these years I find a dismissal notice on the door.
“In the past few years, the company has distributed NIS 25 billion in dividends. The management wants to dismiss a large part of the workforce just in order to turn them into defenseless contract workers.”
“Israel Chemicals is the backbone of the Negev economy,” the company said in response. “It invests NIS 1.5 billion every year — more than any other company in Israel. It is the largest employer in the Negev, providing a livelihood to 30,000 families either directly or indirectly, half of those families from Dimona.”
“Israel Chemicals is winding down its negotiations with the Histadrut labor federation with the goal of instituting a streamlining program that is necessary and will guarantee the factories’ viability for years to come. The negotiations are being held in good faith by both sides who wish to come to an agreement in the coming days.”