FICC fights battle for separate compensation package

The Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce this week continued its battle to win a supplementary compensation package for the services and commerce sector. It is holding talks with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai and Koby Haber, the Finance Ministry's budget chief. "The business sector in the North is not seeking mercy or charity, the sector demands from the government what it is entitled to," said Uriel Lynn, President of the FICC. "In as much as the Treasury has modified the basic compensation agreement for the tourism and agriculture sectors, the commerce and services sector is entitled to the same differential treatment." Lynn explained that the compensation plan agreed upon two weeks ago by the government, Histadrut labor federation and Coordinating Bureau of Economic Organizations did not meet the needs of small- and medium-sized businesses, was unacceptable and simply flawed. "The compensation deal by the government goes only as far as financing wage payments for employees who were absent from work, without any arrangement that covers the damages of lost income, ongoing fixed expenses and a decline in the value of business inventory," said Lynn. The compensation package, he noted, might be a viable and immediate solution for the manufacturing industry and big factories whose productivity levels were not completely halted. "There are thousands of small business owners in the North whose employees did show up for work, but today after nearly a month into the war they are left without revenues, the absence of customers and a heavy burden of fixed running costs," said Oded Feller, President of the Chamber of Commerce for Haifa and the North. The supplementary proposal discussed with Yishai and Haber does not seek compensation for lost profits but coverage of continuing fixed costs including wages, rent, municipal taxes, leasing and electricity costs, interest rate payments, etc. "We all know that the commerce and trade sector has been hit hardest,"said Lynn. "Average revenues have come down almost 60 percent." Under the supplementary proposal of the FICC, one of the measures for calculating compensation entitlement for small and medium-sized businesses would be based on the difference between their income during the war and the same period last year. Meanwhile, the Israel Bar joined the FICC in an appeal against the deal in its current form, saying it was inappropriate for small and medium-sized businesses and the self-employed including law firms, whose damages are not a measure of salary payments.