Following a four-month strike, labor unions and a major chemical firm heading three Dead Sea area factories struck a deal Thursday, in a move that would send thousands of workers back to the production line as early as next week.
The deal, brokered by Histadrut Labor Union chief Avi Nissenkorn, sought to prevent Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL) from laying off hundreds of employees across the three factories due to budget constraints, the Ynet news site reported.
Formerly state owned, ICL is Israel’s principal producer of fertilizers, metals and other special-purpose chemical products.
According to the agreement, 38 employees will be designated for dismissal and will receive a severance payment totaling 300% of the wage rate. However they will be given a refractory period until the end of the year to “prove themselves” and perhaps stay on — if the factory board so chooses.
Another 100 employees will be forced to retire early, joining a further 100 employees who already retired in recent months.
Nissenkorn praised the outcome of the negotiations and hailed it as a victory for Israel’s hard-hit south. The factories are located along the southern coast of the Dead Sea and drew most their employees from the northern Negev region.
“The south has won — we’re returning 2,000 people to work… no worker will be laid off at this stage,” Nissenkorn said.
“Neither side won. Such a long strike is everyone’s loss. We were able to stand up for ourselves. We must not continue to neglect the periphery and the south. We will continue to fight for them,” he said,
ICL’s chief executive Avner Maimon blamed the proposed layoffs on necessary “streamlining” procedures and told reporters he hopes to turn a new leaf and return to work.
“We have suffered through a difficult period of repeated turmoil to get to this moment,” Maimon said.
“The difficulties that surrounded the agreement stemmed from our regretful need to streamline procedures,” he said.
In 2014, ICL posted NIS 160 million ($41.4 million) in losses, contributing to a total of NIS 1.5 billion ($390 million) in losses since 2007.