Court gives Pri Galil factory a glimmer of hope

Foreclosure proceedings against financially-stricken Hatzor Haglilit factory frozen.

pri galil protest 248 88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
pri galil protest 248 88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
A Galilee food company facing the threat of liquidation was granted a temporary reprieve by the Haifa District Court on Tuesday, giving hundreds of Hatzor Haglilit residents employed by the factory a brief respite from fears of economic ruin. The owners of the Vita Pri Galil company owe Bank Leumi and Bank Discount NIS 120 million due to debts incurred by the two additional companies under their ownership. The debt mounted despite the strong production performance of the Pri Galil factory, where employees work 10-hour shifts and earn minimum wage. As a result of the debts, the banks sued for Pri Galil to be placed under receivership, threatening the jobs of hundreds of employees, many of whom have worked at the factory for decades. The Haifa court ordered all proceedings to be frozen until March 1 in an attempt to prevent the factory's closure. The court will reconvene on March 5 to see if an alternative solution has been found. A number of companies have offered to purchase Pri Galil, a solution that would save it from liquidation. So far, the banks have rejected the offers, which they view as unprofitable solutions to the crisis. The court ordered prospective buyers to present more attractive buyout offers. Moti Haziza, chairman of the company's workers committee, told Army Radio that he was pleased by the court's decision, adding that employees had come away with a "certain degree of optimism" from the court's decision. Earlier, the small town of Hatzor Haglilit was paralyzed as all residents and the municipality held a general strike as an act of solidarity with the threatened employees. "If the factory closes, unemployment in Hatzor Haglilit will rise by 30 percent," said the town's mayor, Shimon Swisa. Swisa led a march that blocked off Route 90 in protest of the threat of closure. Shimon Levi, a factory worker, told Israel Radio, "My son asks me what will be. I don't know what to tell him... the banks have lived off of us with their interest for years. They have their money. Yet they still decided to close us down." Levi said his son's bar mitzva celebration, scheduled to take place in a few months, was now at risk. "The hall cost NIS 2,000. I had to stop the arrangements because I can't commit to that now. I simply don't have the funds." "This is a matter of life or death," another protester added. "Closing the factory is a death sentence for us."