Supermarket mogul under pressure over employee mistreatment claims

Supermarket mogul under pressure over employee mistreatment claims

Rami Levy denies allegations of labor law, worker’s rights violations; MK asks to ban price-slashing retailer from Knesset

Raoul Wootliff is the The Times of Israel's political correspondent.

Israeli supermarket mogul Rami Levy (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
Israeli supermarket mogul Rami Levy (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Retail magnate Rami Levy is facing rising pressure after allegations of breaching labor law and serious employee rights violations.

Following a Tuesday Facebook post by a former manager alleging mistreatment of employees, dozens of workers have come forward with claims of exploitation and harassment at the hands of the supermarket and cellular conglomerate.

Elkana Alon, a former manager of the Rami Levy Communications cellular provider, wrote that the company used holes in the current labor laws to fire women who became pregnant and had failed to investigate complaints of sexual harassment against female workers.

“I asked Rami about the claims of harassment I had heard and he just laughed and brushed it off. He said that the manager in question was ‘cheeky’ and he would speak to him,” Alon wrote on Facebook.

Hebrew media reports have since reported employees, former and current, detailing experiences of maltreatment and exploitation. A number of accounts tell of excessive work hours with no breaks and a systematic structure of pressure aimed and scaring employees from complaining.

Illustrative photo of a man shopping at a Rmi Levy supermarket. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a man shopping at a Rami Levy supermarket. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Operating a chain of 27 discount supermarkets in Central and Northern Israel and employing over 5,000 people, Levy has a reputation as a maverick cost cutter, at one point offering chickens and other goods for as low as NIS 1 per kilogram (11 cents per pound).

Levy has denied the allegations of maltreatment.

“Nothing that he [Alon] wrote is correct,” he told Channel 2 News on Wednesday. He claimed Alon had tried to bribe him before posting the allegations and said he had filed a complaint against his former employee with the police.

“He sent me a text telling me that if I didn’t give him 40,000 shekels [$10,000] within 60 minutes he would publish in information,” Levy said.

Speaking on Army Radio Wednesday, one former employee, speaking on condition of anonymity, said she was pressured to leave the company after starting a relationship with an Arab Israeli co-worker.

“I hid the relationship because I knew that at Rami Levy there’s a policy in place. They try to fire female employees that date Arab men. That comes from the top,” she said.

“Once they found out I was going out with an Arab, they decided it was inappropriate. They did everything to make me feel unwanted, like I didn’t belong. They said that us working together in the same place created a distraction. In the end I reached my breaking point and left the company.”

In light of the allegations, Zionist Union MK Yossi Yonah asked Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein to ban Levy from entering the parliament.

“It is unthinkable that a man like Rami Levy, who has damaged so many workers, should enjoy privileges like a permanent entry pass to the Knesset,” Yonah wrote.

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