Rami Levy 88 248.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Supermarket chain owner Rami Levy proposed on Monday that he acquire the financially troubled Ramat Yishai poultry processing plant Of Haemek, which has been closed due to mounting debts.
During a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, Levy offered to invest NIS 10 million in return for a matching investment by the government. In addition, one of the plant's two warring partners - Of Teva Baemek - would pay NIS 24m. to the other owner, Of Haemek.
Levy added that he would commit to an additional investment of NIS 15m. to further develop the plant.
Factory workers have been protesting its closure for over a week, but received word on Monday that their February salaries would be paid as part of a stopgap measure.
"A large amount of the plant's debt is toward stockholders," said Ze'ev Hushinsky, the Histadrut's chief economic adviser. "Thus, if they back down and the government steps in to help, it is possible to save the plant."
The majority of the debt, Hushinsky said, is owed to the cooperative association "Mifalei Haemek," the Jezreel Valley farm cooperative and poultry growers. Various kibbutzim are members of the two cooperatives.
Histadrut officials said that union representatives will meet on Tuesday with the cooperative licensing authority as part of an attempt to find potential buyers and prevent more than 200 workers from losing their jobs.
Some of the workers demonstrated in front of the Knesset while the committee meeting was under way, calling on the government to save them from unemployment.
Histadrut representatives said that the funds used to pay the workers' February salaries would come from an emergency loan backed by the sale of factory inventory in a deal worked out by the Histadrut, management and the factory workers' committee.
Shuki Ogen, chairman of Of Ha'emek and managing director of Mifalei Haemek, proposed that the government aid potential investors by providing them with NIS 10m. to pay the employees and the poultry growers.
Acting Knesset Finance Committee Chairman Reuven Rivlin confirmed that his committee was working with the Finance Ministry to find a solution to the crisis.
He warned, however, that the committee was "responsible for the national budget, and any cushion must take into consideration the restrictions of government intervention and the framework of the budget."