Security guards prevent employees from entering the Negev Ceramics plant. From the Facebook page of Hanna Brig.
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Workers heading for their shifts at the Negev Ceramics Ltd. factory in Yeroham on Friday were locked out by security guards and received a typed letter that the plant would be shutting down and some 130 workers laid off.
“We tried every way to save the plant, but unfortunately, we did not receive the necessary cooperation from the Histadrut and the workers’ committee and, therefore, our hope was lost,” CEO Uri Gilboa wrote in a letter to employees posted on Facebook.
“We have a real desire to continue production at the plant but, on the other hand, it generates losses of NIS 2 million ($570,000) a month that could pull the entire company into a dangerous situation.”
According to Gilboa, the company has been forced into an uncompetitive position by a dramatically changing global ceramics market. “The cost of imports [to Israel] is continuously declining,” he said, specifying that Negev Ceramics produces porcelain tiles at a cost of NIS 40 per meter, while imported tiles – mostly from China, Turkey and Spain – sell for NIS 26 per meter.
“Contractors are looking to buy porcelain tiles at a cheaper cost than production in [our] factory,” he said.
Yeroham Mayor Michael Biton rushed to meet with the locked-out workers and management in an attempt to forestall layoffs, while the Histadrut labor federation petitioned the Beersheba Labor Court for an emergency injunction against the firings.
MK Eli Alalouf (Kulanu) called for an emergency parliamentary panel, which will convene on Tuesday, to discuss the layoffs.
An Economy Ministry representative told The Jerusalem Post this was an internal work dispute but that if both parties ask the ministry to intervene or arbitrate it will do so.
Negev, according to The- Marker, employs 700 people at 10 store branches and offices across the country with 85% of its sales coming from imported products.
The company was bought by private-equity fund Viola Credit for NIS 320m. in April after losing some NIS 500m.
in recent years. Much of the losses stemmed from operations at the Yeroham plant, the country’s only manufacturing facility.
Long-time employees bemoaned the move, which will leave dozens of families without breadwinners in both Yeroham and neighboring Dimona.
A local resident took to social media to condemn the news.
“Is there a responsible adult in the surrounding area?” asked Hanni Briga. “The employees of Negev Ceramics came to work this morning and met a group of thugs wearing black who prevented them from entering the factory.”