Public sector strike paralyzes country over drug-maker layoffs
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Public sector strike paralyzes country over drug-maker layoffs

Airport, banks, health services and more shut down for four hours to protest Teva plans to fire 1,750 workers; transportation unaffected, but demonstrators may block highways

Teva workers protest against company plan to lay off hundreds of employees by blocking the Begin highway in Jerusalem, December 17, 2017. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Teva workers protest against company plan to lay off hundreds of employees by blocking the Begin highway in Jerusalem, December 17, 2017. Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Government offices, banks, schools, clinics, the country’s main airport and more shuttered for several hours on Sunday morning as part of a labor strike to protest mass layoffs by drug-maker Teva.

The strike began at 8 a.m. and was slated to last until noon.

The solidarity strike was called by the powerful Histadrut trade union following an announcement by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries last week that it would slash its work force in Israel by about a quarter as part of a large reorganization plan to save the ailing pharma giant.

Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn said Saturday evening the strike is meant to send a “clear message” the union would not accept the layoffs of Israeli workers.

“We are fighting for the workers of Teva, to save the industry in Israel and to support blue and white,” said Nissenkorn. “Organized labor has been enlisted and is sending a clear message.”

Workers of the Teva company protest against the company plan to lay off hundreds of employees, outside the TEVA Pharmaceutical Industries building in Kiryat Shmona on December 14, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Though short-lived, the strike will be the largest labor action to hit the country in several years, affecting nearly all parts of the public sector. Banks, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, post offices, government offices, the Knesset, ports, airports, Israel Electric Company, health services, universities, local municipalities and regional councils will all be shut, along with Teva facilities across the country.

Though most schools are already off for the Hanukkah holiday, several museums which are normally popular during the holiday will also close, including the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and the Eretz Israel Museum and Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.

Public transportation, including buses and trains, will not be effected by the strike.

Ben Gurion airport moved 66 flights that had been slated to land or take off during the four hour window to early Sunday morning to accommodate for the strike. Three flights were canceled.

While check-in and other services will begin again at noon, flights are not expected to resume until 2:30 p.m.

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)

Air travel within Israel will also be effected, although flights from Eilat’s Ovda Airport and Tel Aviv’s Sde Dov airfield are set start again at 11:30 a.m.

Protests are also expected at several locations outside of Teva plants.

Workers at the drug-maker’s Jerusalem facilities, which are slated to be shut down as part of the reorganization, plan on attempting to block the capital’s main office park at Har Hotzvim, as well as the Begin highway and other major arteries criss-crossing the city.

“We will protest until we got something in writing saying we won’t be fired,” a local union for the Jerusalem operations said in a statement, according to the Ynet news site. “We’ll sleep in the plant, we blockade ourselves in and shut down the city. They want to shut us down in stages by 2019. We don’t agree to it — we will all stay here or all leave together.”

Nissenkorn said last week that Teva planned to layoff 1,750 employees in Israel as part of plans to slash 14,000 jobs globally over two years. Several plants are also expected to be shut down or sold.

Histadrut leader Avi Nissenkorn attends a hearing at the National Labor Court in Jerusalem on December 5, 2017, (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Teva, the world’s largest producer of generic drugs, said on Thursday its reductions would be across the board and in all its locations.

The cuts would amount to more than a quarter of Teva’s global workforce of over 55,000.

A Teva Pharmaceutical Industries building in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel, December 14, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Teva has been saddled with debt after its $40-billion acquisition of the generics arm of rival Allergan was completed last year.

The acquisition has been accompanied by low prices for generics, particularly in the United States, a major market.

Nissenkorn, who has met with Teva management, has said that 1,250 employees in Israel will be sacked in 2018 and 500 the following year.

According to Histadrut, Teva has received $6.2 billion in tax reductions since 2006.

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