Moment of Truth for Israel Electric

YERUSHALAYIM -

A radical restructuring of the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) was the focus of the turbulent opening of negotiations between the state and the workers’ committee on Wednesday.

The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy, and Water Resources presented the Histadrut and IEC workers with a proposal to sell off the company’s power stations and production sites, along with sweeping early retirements, Globes reported.

Although no figures were specified in Wednesday’s story, last December, chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal today told Army Radio that the company would lay off 600 more employees in 2016.

“In 2015, after a struggle, we finally laid off 440 employees,” he said. “In 2016, we will be in the middle of a plan – I’m saying this very carefully, because I very much hope it will be by consent in the framework of the reform – we’ll have to lay off 600.”

The proposed streamlining of the IEC is aimed at addressing its catastrophic debt burden of something over 70 billion shekels.

Workers’ committee chairman Miki Zarfati reacted angrily to the prospect of hundreds of job losses.

“If Ofer Bloch (IEC CEO) thinks I’ll let him fire 1,500 workers, he’s mistaken. IEC’s situation is improving? It only looks that way to you. You’re all wrong,” Zarfati said recently.

The restructuring requires IEC to sell all 17 sites on which power stations are operating, and to abandon the production segment, currently its main source of revenue. IEC still controls 80% of the Israeli economy’s electricity production capacity.

IEC will continue to be a monopoly in the management of the electricity delivery and distribution system, but the supply segment will gradually be opened to full competition.

A follow-up meeting was scheduled for Thursday, but no early resolution of the issues was expected.