Sderot damage 298.
(photo credit: AP)
Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, and Yehuda Segev, its director-general, visited eight factories in and around the Sderot region on Sunday to experience first hand the situation faced by manufacturers there, as well as to formulate a plan of action to help save businesses in the stricken region.
"Without proper protection (to shield the buildings from Kassam rockets), these factories will not be able to produce anything as workers will stop coming to work," warned Segev, who added that 90 percent of the factories in the region have no form of protection while 25% contain dangerous or explosive material that will ignite upon receiving a direct strike from a rocket attack.
Segev estimated that the 40 factories with operations in Sderot have already suffered losses of some NIS 60 million as the city has been virtually shut down since the rocket attacks began again in earnest two weeks ago, leading to a paltry 40% attendance rate among the city's workers.
More than 5,000 families in the city of Sderot and the surrounding region are dependent upon manufacturing for livelihood and should the factories be shut-down because of the attacks, the number of unemployed in the area will increase rapidly, according to Segev.
"If the government would allot NIS 20m., the factories here would be able to construct proper protection for the workers, thereby protecting the lives of the workers and ensuring a source of income for their families, " he added.
Included among the eight factories visited by Brosh and Segev were Elite-Strauss, Lahish Industries and the Hollandia furniture factory.
Sunday night Brosh and Segev were joined by Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, who travelled down to the southern city to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the current plight of Sderot's manufacturers, as well as to visit the situation room that his ministry has established in Sderot as a central station for information regarding any affected businesses in the region.
According to Brosh, the meeting produced real results that will be implemented immediately. "Starting on Monday, we will be operating an office that will provide counseling services for workers who may be afraid to report to work, but just as important we have arranged for the purchase of 200 fortified 'security-rooms' - the costs of which will be shared by the Manufacturers Association and the government - which will be installed in Sderot's factories, and finally we will be installing new warning systems in all of the region's factories, in order to ensure that the workers have plenty of time to make it into the security-rooms."
Separately, Prime Minister and acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert signed a bill Sunday stating that business owners in the region will be awarded compensation for indirect damages caused to their businesses due to the Kassam attacks. The area included for compensation stretches as far north as Ashkelon and along the entire periphery of the Gaza Strip.
Brosh, meanwhile, said he was hopeful the Knesset Finance Committee soon a more comprehensive war compensation package for the area's businesses.