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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
With estimates of financial damage to the manufacturing industry in the North now reaching NIS 2 billion after 12 days of violence, employers are urging employees back to work to help limit further losses.
Business Data Israel said businesses impacted by the hostilities are losing some NIS 630 million in revenue daily, accounting for about 16 percent of the country's daily economic production. The retail business sector in the North generates about NIS 15 billion a year in revenues, which represents 21% of the entire retail trade of the economy. Poised to be particularly hard hit by the security situation, according to BDI, are coffee shops, which make up 10% of all the coffee shops in the country.
Meanwhile, Shraga Brosh, President of the Manufacturers' Association of Israel, warned that if the government does not compensate employers for war damages, hundreds of small and medium-sized were bound to collapse and would not be able to pay out salaries.
"This is the 12th day of escalations and the government has not come up with a single practical solution for the trouble and distress employers and workers are finding themselves in," said Brosh.
Brosh, together with Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini, have drafted a bill proposal that provides solutions to the problems and difficulties faced by employers and workers located in the area of hostilities in the North.
On Sunday night, the joint bill proposal was presented and discussed with Koby Haber, the Finance Ministry's budget chief, Jacky Matza, Director of the Tax Authority and Gabriel Maimon, Director-General of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, providing a detailed list of all the places where employers and workers ought to be entitled to compensation.
"It is a disgrace that the government is not doing more to define the extent of commitment for compensation of damages to companies, leaving us to our own devices," Avi Borenstein, CEO of Saltex, a textile manufacturer that produces army uniforms, told The Jerusalem Post. "I have urged my employees to come back to work, but today only 10 out of 40 workers returned to my factory in Haifa."
Saltex employs a total of 150 employees in the North, including at a factory in Kiryat Shmona, which was closed on Sunday as residents remained in bomb shelters.
On Saturday night, OC Home Front Command Maj.-Gen. Gershon Yitzchak called upon those in the North to go to work as long as their workplace was indoors and had a security room during rocket attacks.
The Kibbutz Industries Association reported that only five of the 45 Kibbutz factories in the North were not in operation on Sunday morning.
Over the weekend, the Chief Financial Officers Forum said that although employers until now had been patient and empathetic towards their employees, they were now starting to pressure workers to get back on the job. According to a survey conducted by the CFO Forum, the average absence rate of employees at work in the North over the past few days ranged from 30 percent to 100%. The absence of workers was felt not only in areas of rocket attacks but also nearby areas such as Yokne'am and Migdal Ha'emek.
"The government's decision not to commit itself to the extent of compensation for indirect damages to companies has forced companies to take a harder line with their employees to help limit further losses," the CFO Forum said.
The government, meanwhile, on Sunday, forbid the firing of workers in the North who stay away from their jobs because of Katyusha rockets in the area or IDF instructions.
The Knesset Finance Committee will tour Rosh Pina, Safed and Karmiel this week to examine the financial implications of the security situation, and the Knesset Economics Committee is scheduled to tour the area on Wednesday.
Minister of Finance Avraham Hirchson said changes in the budget would become necessary because of the security situation and the ongoing fighting, but he emphasized that any change in priorities because of the fighting would be made within the budget framework. Thus the budget framework would "not be moved or be increased." Hirchson added that the macroeconomic parameters on which the 2007 budget was based would remain intact and would not be changed.
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