Olmert threatens to stop TAAS funds

Gov't receives 13 offers on TAAS sale and demands union negotiate over privatization of defense company.

ehud olmert profile 88 (photo credit: )
ehud olmert profile 88
(photo credit: )
The government will refrain from injecting any funds into cash-strapped TAAS-Israel Industries unless labor representatives come back to the negotiating table over the privatization of the state-owned defense company, Acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday. Histadrut Chairman Amir Peretz met on Sunday morning with Olmert and trade union division head Ofer Eini to discuss outstanding payment of the September salaries for TAAS's 3,000 employees and the company's recovery plan in an effort to prevent a strike. "TAAS is in a critical state and we must act to revive it. We have already injected another NIS 250 million into TAAS in the last quarter for the payment of salaries. But the government can't continue injecting money if there aren't going to be serious negotiations with the employees and unions over the recovery of the company," said Olmert. The renewed call for cooperation comes as the Finance Ministry announced on Sunday that 13 parties in Israel and abroad have lined up to take an interest in buying TAAS. The deadline for submitting statements of interest in the tender for the company was October 28. The TAAS privatization committee will have to decide whether to hold a competitive public sale process for the company or hold negotiations with a single entity. At the end of Sunday's meeting, Peretz threatened that if the Finance Ministry does not pay TAAS workers' salaries by Sunday night, he will be forced to call for a partial labor dispute throughout the public sector to be held in the next two weeks. According to the ministry's decision on Sunday night, the Histadrut leadership will convene to decide whether to issue the declaration of a labor dispute that is necessary to legally launch a strike. However, the government has made it clear that it will refuse to transfer funds to pay its debts until an agreement is reached between the company, its workers' union and the Histadrut over the deep financial crisis plaguing TAAS. An agreement would allow for the company's privatization and the implementation of a recovery plan, which would include the dismissal of hundreds of workers and pay cuts. The plan would cut TAAS's workforce by 500 and reduce salaries of remaining workers by 8 percent. "We will not sit at the negotiating table on an empty stomach, that is without the payment of workers' salaries," said Peretz.