Haifa Chemicals has reportedly decided to shut down its factory in northern Israel and lay off hundreds of workers amid the continued stalemate over the future of the firm’s operations in the country, after an ammonia tank it relies on was forced to be moved.
On Tuesday, the company’s management met with representatives of the Haifa factory’s workers committee, telling them that letters would be sent to the roughly 400 workers at the facility next week informing them they will be laid off, Channel 10 reported.
Haifa Chemicals has been operating for over 50 years It consumes some 68 percent of Israel’s imported ammonia to produce specialty fertilizers at plants it runs in the north and the south of the country.
The plants employ some 800 workers directly and some 4,500 indirectly, and are responsible for 2 percent of Israel’s industrial exports, according to data provided by the company.
The move follows a government decision to force the closure of the company’s ammonia storage tank in Haifa Bay amid concerns over the potential for a deadly chemical leak or attack on the facility.
The decision to close the northern factory came after a meeting between representatives of the company and Economy Minister Eli Cohen (Kulanu), with company officials deciding there is “no solution” to the ongoing impasse over ammonia imports, which they said has led the company to sustain significant losses.
The company had been exploring alternative plans to save the plants. One, in which small ships carrying ammonia would be permitted to dock in either Ashdod or Haifa ports before the ammonia is then sent overland to the plant, is favored by the government, but strongly opposed by Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav according to Channel 10.
The plan was reportedly agreed to by the company earlier this month.
The company’s reported decision to shut down the northern factory came after Haifa Chemicals CEO Jules Trump told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month that he has decided to shut down total operations of the fertilizer maker and let go its 800 workers.
The “tragic result” of the closure of the company, wrote Trump in his letter to Netanyahu, stems from the fact that for the past five months production has been halted, causing a loss of hundreds of millions of shekels as the workers were kept on in the hope that the government would find a “reasonable” solution that would enable the company to continue its operations, he wrote.
“Now we learn that in spite of the unanimous government decision to find a solution for the ammonia crisis… the implementation of a solution is not on the horizon,” Trump wrote. “We are forced to close the company and fire its workers.”