United behind Teva’s (soon to be former) workers
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Hebrew media review

United behind Teva’s (soon to be former) workers

Israel’s main newspapers agree on one thing: the employees waiting to be laid off by pharmaceutical giant Teva are being dealt a bad hand

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Employees of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries protest against the company's plan to lay off 1,700 employees, in Kiryat Shmona, December 14, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Employees of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries protest against the company's plan to lay off 1,700 employees, in Kiryat Shmona, December 14, 2017. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Despite widely varying coverage on most other issues, Israel’s main newspapers on Monday can agree on one thing: the employees from Teva are being dealt a bad hand with the expected mass layoffs.

Israel-based Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world’s largest generic drug-maker, announced Thursday that it was cutting 14,000 jobs worldwide. The cuts are expected to include about 1,700 jobs in Israel, roughly one-quarter of its local workforce.

The company is considered a national treasure and is one of the largest private-sector employers in Israel, and the announcement has sparked several days of strikes across the country.

On Sunday, Teva employees in Jerusalem barricaded themselves inside a factory, vowing not to leave until an alternative to the layoffs is found. Strikes were held elsewhere in Israel in recent days in solidarity with the Teva workers.

Monday’s papers notably featured sympathetic pictures of employees and their families protesting the announcement around the country.

Yedioth Ahronoth devotes the majority of its coverage to the protesting workers and their families, who are likely to be affected by what the paper has dubbed “Teva’s blow.”

Three workers — from Jerusalem, Netanya and Kiryat Shmona — are featured by Yedioth, which says they are “fighting for their home.”

“It is our home and will forever be our home,” one family tells the paper.

Workers of the Teva company protest against the company plan to lay off hundreds of employees, outside the TEVA Pharmaceutical Industries building in Ashdod, (December 17, 2017. Photo by Flash90)

Yedioth columnists are equally sympathetic to the workers’ plight and criticize the government and labor unions for a broken system that allows the massive layoffs to happen.

Shlomo Puterkovsky levels criticism at Avi Nissenkorn, the chairman of the national labor union, for encouraging other workers to declare solidarity strikes.

“The question we must ask ourselves is why is the only option for workers to show solidarity with other workers is to declare a strike?” Puterkovsky writes. “The damage that comes with it is immense.”

“The problem is there is no differentiating between who calls the strike and who pays the price. If the decision makers were the ones paying the price, they would quickly find a creative solution.”

Israel Hayom also devotes part of its front page to the ongoing Teva saga.

Like Yedioth, Israel Hayom’s coverage focuses on the human face of the upcoming redundancies at the pharmaceutical giant.

“I want them to look me in the eye and for them to tell me what it is I can do at age 55,” Haim, a worker at the company’s plant in Netanya, told the paper. “I’ve worked here for over 30 years.”

“These people work around the clock [for Teva], giving their souls and lives,” said the chairman of the Petah Tikvah workers union. “It’s very sad and very frustrating; this place is like family for us; we never dreamed we would be in a situation like this.”

Israel Hayom columnists, however, are less concerned with the labor strikes, instead continuing to highlight US Donald Trump’s decision earlier this month to declare Jerusalem the capital of Israel.

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 17, 2017. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The announcement that was hailed by Israeli leaders as “historic” but has sparked mass protests in the Arab world is dissected in a political cartoon and no fewer than three op-eds in its Monday paper.

Haaretz, Israel’s main left-wing newspaper, also strikes a sympathetic tone toward the protesting Teva employees.

In an op-ed, Tzvia Greenfield argues that Teva’s failing is indicative of larger problems in Israel, namely the lack of a peace agreement with Palestinians.

The company, she says, “insisted on sailing straight into the iceberg and colliding with it” instead of “rescuing itself by investing billions of dollars in research and development.”

Greenfield says that like Teva, Israel has “all the characteristics necessary for prosperity and is well aware of what must be done in order to save itself from destruction and failure.”

But instead of seriously pursuing peace with the Palestinians — what Greenfield says is “the only thing that can really save Israel” — Netanyahu’s government is “preoccupied with endless shenanigans, which are filling the air with deafening noise and of course failing one after the other.”

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