Layoffs jolt Histadrut, industry, gov't

In a letter to Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini criticized the Treasury's economic-stimulus package.

ofer eini 88 (photo credit: )
ofer eini 88
(photo credit: )
The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, manufacturers and the Histadrut Labor Federation will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the recent wave of layoffs. "We are calling upon the finance minister to implement incentives and subsidize salaries to avert a big wave of layoffs," Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini said Monday. "Secondly, we are urging the finance minister to start negotiations over the provision of a safety net for employees who have paid into pension and provident funds." In a letter to Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, Eini criticized the Treasury's economic-stimulus package. "The package does not seem to bring any good news for employees," he wrote. "I am confident that there are positive items in the package, but providing assistance for factories without a direct link to employees will not provide an answer for the wave of layoffs and the difficult situation faced by workers, in particular in the periphery." In response, the Finance Ministry said the stimulus package was prepared in talks with many representative bodies in the economy, including the Histadrut. "The package of measures to encourage economic activity includes investment in infrastructure, employment, credit availability and more, which is intended to create additional jobs," a Treasury statement said. The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and the Treasury on Monday unveiled a number of joint steps to cope with the economic slowdown, boost employment and minimize the damage caused by the global crisis to small- and medium-sized businesses. Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry director-general Gabriel Maimon said the measures would be implemented over the next three months. They include a special two-year employment track to encourage the hiring of new workers for the business sector, in particular from the periphery and weaker sectors of the population, he said. The track will be budgeted with more than NIS 100 million for the state to subsidize the cost of workers. Preference will be given to minority groups and haredim. "Small- and medium-sized businesses, in particular in the periphery, need professional advice and business guidance in how to cope with an economic crisis, as many don't have an academic background of business studies," Ran Kiviti, director of the Negev Development and Employment Center at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, told The Jerusalem Post Monday. "We will subsidize 75 percent of such advice." The ministry is also planning to establish a fund for loans to small- and medium-sized enterprises, but the details are still being negotiated with the Finance Ministry, he said. The plan has budgeted NIS 200m. for the establishment of a private-equity fund for investment in industries in the periphery, Kiviti said. "The budget allocated for the employment-supporting measures will be added to the 2008 state budget," he said.