The Histadrut labor federation is gearing up for a half-day general strike on Sunday, days after the largest generic drug company in the world, Teva Pharmaceuticals, announced that it is laying off a quarter of its Israeli workers – some 1,750 people.
The Histadrut has called on workers across the economy to power down machinery and walk out in protest of proposed cuts at Teva, as leverage for negotiations and to pressure the company.
Teva received NIS 22 billion in tax breaks and subsidies over the past decade, and it is unlikely the government asked for commitments in return.
The strike is set to occur in the morning, with plans to halt flights at Ben-Gurion Airport from 8 a.m. to noon.
Planes scheduled to depart before and after the strike won’t be affected.
Public transport will continue to operate as usual, contradicting previous reports that bus drivers and rail operators would participate in the strike.
Histadrut chairman Avi Nissenkorn said that the union decided not to halt transport services “in order to prevent hitting the public and soldiers” returning to base after Shabbat.
Workers at Haifa and Ashdod ports are also expected to strike in the morning as a show of solidarity, along with staffers at health clinics, banks, cellular companies, public utilities, museums, the stock exchange, courts and most government offices and municipalities. Hospitals will work on a Sabbath schedule, and Teva workers at factories across the country plan to lead the strike.
Labor chairman Avi Gabbay criticized the way the government handled the Teva layoffs and for not intervening sooner, given the company’s poor third quarter of 2017 earnings.
“Thousands of workers are losing their jobs because of a clear managerial failure,” Gabbay said on Saturday. “But where was the government? For months, everyone knew it was going to happen.
Where was the finance minister? Why didn’t he call Teva’s CEO? Where was the prime minister?” Based in Petah Tikva, Teva was once seen as the flagship Israeli company, but ill-advised corporate acquisitions, coupled with increased generic drug competition in the US, has severely reduced cash flow to the company – calling into question whether, after 2018, Teva could pay off its enormous $35b. debt load.