Mass layoffs in offing at El Al firm that made 40,000 kosher airline meals a day

Food company Tamam has suspended operations; has produced food for decades for Israeli and foreign flights at Ben Gurion Airport

ILLUSTRATIVE — Cooks wrapping airline food in foil in a commercial kitchen. (iStock/Kondor83)
ILLUSTRATIVE — Cooks wrapping airline food in foil in a commercial kitchen. (iStock/Kondor83)

With the almost complete closure of Israel’s skies since March, a kosher food production firm which supplies millions of kosher meals a year to airlines flying into Ben Gurion International Airport has ceased operations and has furloughed hundreds of employees.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tamam, which is owned by national carrier El Al and bills itself as “Israel’s senior most leading kosher food airlines caterer,” produced up to 40,000 meals a day, supplying both local and foreign airlines.

But its kitchens are now silent and many workers fear that they will be laid off, according to a Channel 13 report.

Workers protested outside the factory, which is located at the airport, last week.

“I want to work, I want to earn an honest living,” one employee told the network.

El Al workers protest the airline’s intention to lay off some employees, on May 10, 2020, outside the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“I’ve been working at Tamam for 31 years,” said another. “It’s not just a job, it’s our home. I raised my kids there. What do I do after 31 years?”

El Al, Tamam’s parent company, is in serious financial jeopardy, having stopped nearly all flights.

The firm has put 80 percent of its 6,303 workers on unpaid leave, cut management salaries by 20%, halted investments, and signed accords for the sale and lease-back of three Boeing 737-800s.

The firm also owes some $350 million to passengers whose flights were canceled because of the pandemic.

The airline stopped flights altogether on Wednesday after labor talks blew up between the pilots committee and management.

El Al has prolonged the suspension of scheduled commercial flights until the end of July, but had said it would continue to use its aircraft for cargo and occasional passenger flights.

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