115 workers at the Harsa plant in Beer Sheva stand to lose their jobs. Workers at the plant, which produces bathroom fixtures and belongs to the Hamat group, are demonstrating in front of the gates of the plant, because management intends to close it down and move production to Turkey. The Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel), which supports the workers anxious about their future employment, said that according to talks held with senior executives at the plant with Histadrut representatives, most of the workers would receive layoff notices. The Histadrut added that the plant's management had hired guards to prevent access to the plant.
Workers at the plant were all on vacation for the Passover holiday for the past two weeks. When the vacation ended today, they were surprised to discover that management did not intend to renew production at the veteran plant, which has been operating for the past 70 years.
Histadrut Negev District chairperson Meir Babiof instructed workers at the Harsa plant not to accept the layoff notices, which are due to be delivered to their homes by special delivery.
Babiof said, "Several dozen security guards, hired thugs, entered the plant, so that it would be closed off when the workers arrived. The plan is closed down and the workers were told, 'There is no reason for you to come to work.' A meeting is scheduled later today between Histadrut Negev District representatives and Harsa CEO Ido Shefer, who acts in the name of owner Yoav Golan. We do not intend to abandon the workers after 70 years of manufacturing. We will demand and insist on improved terms and enlarged compensation after the plant is closed down. We aim to reached agreement through negotiations, but if no agreement is reached, we will conduct an uncompromising campaign. I am coordinating with Histadrut chairperson Arnon Bar-David, who gave full backing to the struggle on behalf of the workers. Management constructed an alternative plant in Turkey and then announced the closing down of the plant in Israel, because it is unprofitable for the owner. As far as he is concerned, the workers can go to hell. We are unwilling to accept this."
Yoav Golan was recently in the headlines as a potential buyer for Israir from IDB Development. He announced that he planned to acquire the airline as a 70th birthday present to himself - a $55 million gift - but it has so far failed to materialize. Golan was vigorously opposed by the Israir pilots' committee, which argued that transferring ownership to Golan would pose an existential threat to Israir's future. They explained their fear by Golan's actions with the workers at Hamat, with an emphasis on events at the Harsa plant.
A source close to the Hamat group told "Globes" that the Harsa export plant in Beersheva would be closed down, adding that its production line would be transferred to Turkey. The source also said that 95 workers were employed at the Harsa plant, and that the Hamat group's enterprises had a total of 500 workers. He stated that efforts were being made to find other employment solutions for the Harsa workers.
The source claimed that the source of the dire state of the Harsa plant was the complete removal of import taxes on bathroom fixtures, as a result of which imports of products from Turkey had made production in Israel unprofitable, while production costs in Israel were higher than in Turkey. Despite the closure of the production plant in Beer Sheva, Hamat's management decided that the company's research and development would remain in Israel.
Harsa has not yet made any official response.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on April 29, 2019
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