Addicted to Teva
Hebrew media review

Addicted to Teva

As the ailing drug-maker's workers wail about the prospects of having to find a new job, the government looks into getting others fired instead or giving the firm more money

Workers of the Teva company protest against the company plan to lay off hundreds of employees, outside the TEVA Pharmaceutical Industries building in Jerusalem, December 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Workers of the Teva company protest against the company plan to lay off hundreds of employees, outside the TEVA Pharmaceutical Industries building in Jerusalem, December 14, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In recent years, roadworks officials in some areas of the US and England have begun using signs reading “Slow down, my daddy works here” (or sometimes mommy) in a bid to get drivers to take their lead foot off the pedal and increase worker safety. Yet it’s not clear if the campaigns yielded anything more than a whole lot of sarcasm (especially in the UK).

In the same vein, Yedioth Ahronoth’s top headline Sunday morning of “Don’t fire Mommy and Daddy” is also a no-holds barred attempt to pull on heartstrings and gain sympathy for the plight of Teva workers, who say they are being run over by their company’s bad management. And similarly, it’s not at all clear whether pathetic displays like that will do anything but make people sad (or think they are being cynically manipulated using children).

Yedioth’s first few pages are devoted to one thing and one thing only, appealing to peoples’ hearts on behalf of the pharma firm’s poor workers, whose fate of having a one in four chance of being fired over the next two years makes them so sad that even lighting a Hanukkah menorah can’t cheer their kids up, at least according to the paper’s inside headline, calling Hanukkah “The sad holiday of the Teva kids.” (Though some of them can’t help but smile in the pictures the paper publishes of them.)

“Who will pay our mortgage? Teva was our home… We thought we would work their our whole lives and retire from there,” wails either Nadav or Miri Detour, who both work at the firm’s Jerusalem facility, faced with the insurmountable challenge of having to find another job at the ripe old age of 40 or 34 respectively. “I still believe in miracles. If there is even a 1 percent chance Teva will stay in Jerusalem, I believe. Getting the news during the holiday was terrible, but maybe there will be a miracle, who knows,” Miri Detour adds.

While the Detours and others are waiting for Hanukkah Harry to come down the chimney with his sack of miracles, politicians are getting their hands dirty trying to do something to save the workers’ jobs, according to Israel Hayom, which reports on efforts by the government to strong-arm Teva into firing more workers abroad and letting the Israelis keep their jobs.

“The Israeli government is not impressed, to put it lightly, with Teva’s dramatic firings and does not intend to continue making nice after years of giving the company billions in breaks,” the paper reports. “Israeli officials understand that Teva needs to stabilize in order to stay in business, but that stabilization can come from other countries where Teva operates and not in Israel, or at least not at that scale.”

Haaretz reports a totally different story, that the government is considering sweet-talking the company into sticking around with even more money thrown their way. The paper makes plain its suspicion about such a plan, running a headline that reads “Instead of worrying about the fired workers, the government is trying to buy them more time,” pointing out that there is no safety net for fired workers of any ilk and politicians seem to only care about cases where there is public pressure.

“The government should focus on helping the fired workers and not on helping Teva — starting with pushing the company to compensate them with the best possible package, and after that with professional training that will help them re-enter the workforce, which needs skilled workers. With the right career change, the fired workers can become a lifesaver for other manufacturers, desperately in need of engineers and other professional manpower in the manufacturing sector,” the paper’s Ora Koren writes.

The broadsheet is the only paper not to lead with Teva, instead putting a different kind of firing front and center, that of IDF snipers deployed to the Gaza border who killed two Palestinians amid general unrest over the weekend.

One of those killed, Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, was a man who had previously lost his legs in an Israeli strike, and the sad saga enrages op-ed columnist Gideon Levy.

Palestinians carry the body of Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh into al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on December 15, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

“Abu Thurayeh posed no danger to anyone: How much of a danger could a double amputee in a wheelchair, imprisoned behind a fence, constitute? How much evil and insensitivity does it take in order to shoot a handicapped person in a wheelchair? Abu Thuraya was not the first, nor will he be the last, Palestinian with disabilities to be killed by soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces — the most moral soldiers in the world, or not,” Levy fumes.

The flip side of the unrest, US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, is big news in Israel Hayom, which reports that the visit of US Vice President Mike Pence is designed to give backing to the announcement, including a visit to a very special wall that the Americans have decided will remain Israeli, even if they also say they aren’t predetermining borders.

“Sources confirmed that Pence will visit the Western Wall ‘as part of his role as vice president,’ and unlike Trump’s visit, his will seemingly not be private but rather an official visit,” the paper reports, though it adds that “like Trump, Pence will be accompanied by a rabbi and not a diplomatic official at the visit to the holy site.”

The Trump administration’s penchant for being of two minds (or two faces) is also clear to some in its declaration of Jerusalem as the capital while foot-dragging on moving the embassy there. But to Yedioth columnist Sever Plotzker, the embassy is far from the point.

“Embassies are usually in the capital, but it’s only a custom. Until they cut off ties in 1967, the USSR had its embassy in Ramat Gan. It didn’t turn Ramat Gan into Israel’s capital, not even in the eyes of the Soviets. The signed declaration by Trump that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital enshrines its stance across the American federal system, and that’s the dramatic change,” he writes.

“When Jerusalem starts appearing as the capital on official US publications, even the EU will be forced to decide where the capital of Israel is. And not to make do, as they have until now, with the stance that it’s not Jerusalem. This explains the anger of European diplomats at Trump’s declaration: There is nothing European foreign ministries hate more than having to make a positive determination regarding the Middle East.”

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