Cannery workers barricade selves to protest closure

Union chief says workers will block entrance to cash-strapped Pri Hagalil plant until it returns to normal operations

Workers of the Pri Hagalil factory standing outside the plant on January 1, 2015. (Photo credit: Flash90)
Workers of the Pri Hagalil factory standing outside the plant on January 1, 2015. (Photo credit: Flash90)

Workers at a cash-strapped food processor in northern Israel barricaded themselves next to the factory Sunday morning to protest the management’s failure to reopen the cannery following a closure last week.

The Pri Hagalil workers locked the gate of the plant and erected a protest tent just outside, blocking anyone or anything from entering or leaving the Hatzor Haglilit facility.

Union chairman Moti Haziza, who announced the blockade, expressed his frustration at the situation and said the employees were tired of being the victims of other people’s failures. He said the workers would remain inside until the factory returned to normal operations.

Employees and trucks that arrived at the factory Sunday morning were forced to turn away due to the labor action.

On Saturday night, the plant’s management announced that the factory would not open on Sunday, despite being granted a special business permit by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to reopen after being forced to close down last week.

“Pri Hagalil employees are not pawns in the hands of management or any other body. The plant must be reopened immediately in respect for the workers, whose only crime is that they want make a decent living,” a statement put out by the workers union Saturday read.

Lat week, Pri Hagalil sent its 220 workers home on a forced vacation after management said it was unable to pay for a business permit to keep the facility open.

Following last week’s closure, Factory manager Oshik Efraim said the root of the problem was a failure by the Economy Ministry to transfer all of a NIS 9 million ($2.31 million) grant agreed on in 2009 to keep the struggling company open.

According to Efraim, only half of the money has been handed over, and the rest, which was due in February 2014, has been held up.

In February 2012 workers arrived at the factory to find the gates locked as management threatened to close down the site. The factory reopened several days later after the government promised to transfer more funding.

The Pri Hagalil factory, which produces canned and frozen foods, was founded in 1951 and is one of the largest employers in northern Israel.

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