THE DEAD SEA WORKS in Sdom, the world’s fourth largest producer and supplier of potash products, is owned by Israel Chemicals Ltd.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The management of Israel Chemicals’ Bromine Compounds plant on Sunday threatened to lay off an additional 57 workers if strikes protesting a previous round of layoffs continued.
In a letter to the workers’ unions, the company wrote that the ongoing strike had run down their inventories, making it difficult to continue supplying its customers with the materials they purchased.
Last week, the company sent out notices indicating that they would not be able to fulfill orders as a result of the labor sanctions, a move that could fray the company’s credibility and business relationships going forward.
Some customers, the company said, would find alternative suppliers, while those that relied on materials made exclusively by ICL would look for alternative materials, cutting the company out of their supply loop altogether, the company said.
“If this danger materializes, then even after the strike ends, the facilities [producing certain chemicals] won’t operate again. As a result, 57 more workers will be added to the list of those to be let go from the company, above and beyond the efficiency plan,” the letter said.
For weeks, ICL and the Histadrut labor federation have been at odds over the fate of 140 workers from the Bromide Compounds plant, which the company says has been unprofitable for years.
In February, the Histadrut threatened a general strike in the South, and shut down a handful of cities to flex its muscles. Workers at the Bromine Compounds plant and the Dead Sea Works stopped operating the plants.
In the end, the general strike was called off ahead of the election, with the understanding that the company would temporarily freeze the 140 layoffs, but strikes at the factories would continue during negotiations.
The Histadrut has argued that a company such as ICL, which pulls in billions in profits each year, has no reason to lay off so many workers. The employment picture in the South is less rosy than in the rest of the country, meaning the workers may not have many alternatives.
The company has argued in return that they have offered generous compensation packages to those losing their jobs, but cannot pour resources into a money-losing plant without a plan to return it to profitability. Global prices and competition have made some of their products less profitable, they said, a fact they have to respond to if they are to remain competitive.
Sunday’s threat was the latest in the ongoing negotiations, which have borne little fruit since they commenced three weeks ago.