A bulldozer works at a magnesium factory near the Dead Sea. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Workers at Israel Chemicals unit Dead Sea Works embarked on an allout strike Thursday after management did not respond to demands by the Histadrut labor federation and workers committee to remove the threat of layoffs for hundreds of employees.
The strike is also in solidarity with 140 planned layoffs at sister ICL company Bromine Compounds, where strikes have been ongoing.
“We are prepared to fight at any price for against the management’s demands. It is due to the hard work and dedication of its employees that Israel Chemicals has succeeded and is profitable, and management’s intention of harming employees and firing them is absurd, aggressive and above all unnecessary. I call on management to cancel the layoffs and begin talking with us,” said Dead Sea Works workers committee chairman Armand Lankri.
Israel Chemical said that factory closures could lead to irreversible damage, with safety and environmental repercussions.
“Striking the bromine factory in Sdom is an extreme step that sacrifices the 400 employees of Dead Sea Magnesium on the altar of this extremist and violent struggle of the Bromine Compounds workers assisted by chairman of the Dead Sea Works workers committee Armand Lankri,” said ICL general-manager Avner Maimon.
“Dead Sea Works management has urgently turned to the Labor Court to prevent the grave risk of this dangerous step by the chairman of the workers committee of the Dead Sea Works.”
The company argued that it had made a good offer to those employees being laid off, going so far as to publish the details of the offer.
Earlier in the week, the Histadrut threatened to “shut down the South” if layoffs were not reversed.
“We will shut down city by city in the South, every day another city, until the issue is resolved,” said Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn at an ICL demonstration Monday, flanked by Dimona Mayor Benny Biton and Arad Mayor Tali Plosko. “Employment in the South and its rescue is no less important a topic than any on the agenda.”
Israel Chemicals has countered that without layoffs and other steps to make the plants more efficient, they will continue to be money-losing operations. The Bromine plant lost NIS 1.5 billion in recent years despite massive investments. In that situation, it will simply shutter the plants and dismiss the remaining workers as well. Already, the company has been internationalizing, opening a new branch in Amsterdam and investing in Ethiopian mines.
Nissenkorn said a company that earned NIS 3b. a year could find ways to keep an employee earning NIS 7,800 a month on the payroll.
Late Thursday, the Beersheba Labor Court ordered a halt to the strike.