The protest by Israel Chemicals Ltd. (TASE: ICL) workers in the south continued today, with disruptions at the Beersheva headquarters of the company's bromine unit. 200 headquarters employees were prevented from entering the building. At the same time, for the second straight day, 3,000 contract workers were prevented from entering six Israel Chemicals' facilities.
The workers are protesting Israel Chemicals' ICL1 streamlining plan, which they say includes extensive layoffs. The plan calls for the consolidation of staffs and operations, and sources close to the company say that its implementation over three years will reduce the company's workforce by 600 employees. The company plans to offer early retirement to most of the employees.
Israel Chemicals' management today called on the workers committee to enter into negotiations with management of the various units on the streamlining plan. The workers committees are boycotting the meetings on the grounds that management is undertaking unilateral steps to facilitate layoffs. The committees also argue that the company has faced more challenging global market conditions than the current ones without the need for recovery plans. They argue that the streamlining plan is a response by Israel Chemicals controlling shareholder, Idan Ofer, to boost the royalties that the company pays the government.
The workers committees announced today that they will announce additional protest measures, including a possible strike at all Israel Chemicals' plants in the south. "It is unacceptable that the dispute between Idan Ofer and Nir Gilad with the government over who is stronger should come at the employees' expense," Bromine Compounds workers committee chairman Avner Ben-Senor told "Radio South" today.
The workers have made it clear in the past few days that they will agree to negotiations on the condition that they are represented by the united workers committee of all of Israel Chemicals workers committees. ICL Fertilizers VP Avner Maimon today said that he has agreed to this.
Israel Chemicals said in response, "Israel Chemicals will be happy to meet with the representative body of all the committees or with each committee separately. Management does not understand the workers' position, who refuse to attend meetings on one hand, while claiming that they are not being consulted with on the other. Israel Chemicals management believes and hopes that the committees will act responsibly, end their criticism and the beating of war drums, and choose the path of serious dialogue to prepare the plan and implement it consensually as soon as possible."
Israel Chemicals added, "The company is dealing with a problematic and pressing reality caused by the decline in the competitiveness of Israeli enterprises, mainly because of government edicts in recent years and the crisis in the company's markets."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 10, 2014
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