900 layoffs expected as US engine-maker Pratt & Whitney to shut down Israel factory

Histadrut labor federation declares work dispute ahead of closure of facility, formerly owned by the Wertheimer family

Sharon Wrobel is a tech reporter for The Times of Israel.

BTL factory workers meet, following an announcement of closure of production line and planned layoffs, December 4, 2022. (Courtesy/ Histadrut labor federation)
BTL factory workers meet, following an announcement of closure of production line and planned layoffs, December 4, 2022. (Courtesy/ Histadrut labor federation)

US jet engine-maker Pratt & Whitney is set to seize manufacturing of compressor blades at Blades Technology Ltd. (BTL) in Nahariya after more than 40 years, putting 900 jobs at risk.

In a letter sent on Sunday, BTL general manager Igor Krapovinsky informed workers that parent company Pratt & Whitney has decided to shut down the production of compressor blades, explaining that for some times the plant in Nahariya has been generating “significant losses which are only getting bigger.” The production line will gradually be phased out starting in 2024 and shut down in 2025, according to the letter.

The move is expected to lead to broad layoffs of most of the factory’s workers. The manufacturer of precision forged and machined blades and vanes for the aerospace and industrial gas turbine industries, has two factories located in Israel’s north, one in Nahariya and one in Tefen.

Following the announcement about the production closure and planned layoffs, the Histadrut labor federation declared a work dispute at the factory.

According to Asher Shmueli, head of the Histadrut in the Western Galilee region, BTL employees were informed that the factory in Nahariya would be shut down and the operations at the plant in Tefen would be reduced over the next three years. As a result, 900 out of a total of 1,400 workers are expected to be laid off.

“Following the announcement of the planned layoffs, I informed the management, along with the workers’ committee that the Histadrut will not negotiate on the closing of the plant, but our goal is that an alternative buyer will be found for the company who will operate the plant as a going concern,” Shmueli said in a statement.

Shmueli added that Histadrut labor federation chair Arnon Bar-David has already taken up the matter and will seek the involvement of government ministries.

The moves comes eight years after Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, took full control of BTL from the Wertheimer family. In 2014, industrialist Stef Wertheimer sold the remaining 51 percent stake of subsidiary Iscar Blades Technology to the US aerospace giant Pratt & Whitney for an undisclosed sum estimated at hundreds of millions of shekels.

Founded in 1968, Wertheimer started Iscar Blades in Nahariya as a small manufacturing operation supplying the Israeli Air Force with spare parts before turning the company into a multinational corporation manufacturing all types of compressor and turbine blades.

BTL provides critical parts for the aerospace industry and has in recent years expanded into the gas turbine industry and the rapidly growing orthopedic implant market.

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