Jerusalem industry is on course to grow 6 percent by year-end, the Jerusalem District Manufacturers Association (JDMA) said Tuesday despite the threat that many factories may close or leave the Atarot Industrial Zone, the city's largest industrial park, due to a proposal to prevent Palestinian workers continuing their jobs in there.
"From October, Palestinian workers may not be granted permission to enter Atarot," Ran Tuttnauer, chairman of the JDMA said. "Already today, five new enterprises due in the area have expressed doubts on whether to invest in Atarot and are awaiting a decision on the matter before pursuing any plans." The Israel Manufacturers Association said the issue of discontinuing the granting of permits to Palestinian workers in the area, is in discussion in government and will be presented to the Knesset for implementation beginning in October. The law would affect approximately 100 factories, which employ some 1,500 Palestinian workers, or 25% of the total Atarot work force.
The IMA called on the government and, in particular the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor, to work to extend the period for granting permits to workers until a solution is found to employ Israelis in their place. It also called on the municipality to improve the infrastructure and working conditions in Atarot.
Speaking at the IMA's Jerusalem branch annual press conference, Tuttnaer said the IMA expects revenues from industry in the city to grow 6% to NIS 11.8 billion this year and the addition of 750 new jobs - 50% of which would be in hi-tech, bringing the total number employed by Jerusalem industry to 22,000.
Despite the growth, Tuttnaer said the city was still short approximately 1,000 workers.
"The professionals we still need include welders, technicians, sales managers, marketing managers, programmers, engineers and electricians," he said.
At the same time, Tuttnaer stressed that the program whereby 550 dunam of land in the city has been set aside for industry to build needs to be intensified, which could bring 9,000 jobs.
"We demand that the government and the municipality allocate 50% of the city's budget to the development of industry and business there," the IMA said.
The IMA noted that Jerusalem's growth forecast is in line with the rest of the country where industry is expected to grow 6% in 2006, as exports rise 11% over last year to $28.8b. Local sales are expected to grow 3% to NIS 176b. Approximately 9,000 new workers are expected to be employed in industry this year.