Workers protest over factory closure

200 jobs at debt-stricken chicken factory in Western Galilee may be lost.

pri galil protest 248 88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
pri galil protest 248 88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Employees at Of Haemek in the Western Galilee on Sunday blocked the entrance to the debt-stricken chicken factory over the prospect it may go out of business, jeopardizing 200 jobs. "I heard that [Prime Minister-designate] Binyamin Netanyahu says he wants to help factories in the periphery. We call upon Netanyahu to help us," said Moti Sa'ar, head of the Of Haemek workers' union. The Of Haemek employees vowed to remain there until a solution was found for the factory's heavy debts and until the threat of closure was removed. "We cannot prevent every layoff or every factory closure, but we can turn the boat around," Netanyahu said Sunday at a meeting of the Likud's "100-days team," which is preparing plans for his first 100 days as prime minister. Over the weekend, Of Haemek's management appointed a special manager, who told employees that production and all work would terminate on Sunday. Management is planning to close the factory and fire its 200 workers unless a viable investor is found within the next few days. Due to the economic crisis and a slowdown in sales, the factory has accrued an estimated NIS 30 million to NIS 40m. of debts owed to banks, suppliers, workers and others. Its workers still have not been paid for January. The factory's closure was averted temporarily at the end of last week through the intervention of Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini. Of Haemek management is negotiating with bank representatives and the Finance Ministry in an effort to secure a state-guaranteed loan. "It seems that the factory's management is interested in closing the premises and firing the workers," Leon Peretz of the Histadrut said in a statement released Sunday. "Over the past few days management has not tried to secure a loan and is not prepared to commit any money. Instead, management is seeking an investor, who will take full responsibility and assume accrued debts without carrying any part of the burden. This appears to be impossible and is irresponsible toward the workers." "We have asked the government to step in," he said, "but it is difficult to help someone who is not interested in helping himself."