Teva Pharmaceuticals, the largest generic-drug company in the world, announced on Thursday, December 14, that it will lay off nearly 25% of its global workforce, or some 14,000 people, within the next two years. 1,750 of the employees to be fired will come from the company’s workforce in Israel. Two of the company’s Israeli facilities will be shut down and another sold. The layoffs are part of a strategic plan presented by CEO Kåre Schultz, who was hired six week ago to turn Teva around.
Histadrut labor federation Chairman Avi Nissankoren has called a half-day general strike for tomorrow, Sunday, December 17, in response to the 1,750 layoffs announced Wednesday. The strike is slated to include Ben-Gurion International Airport, all government ministries, local authorities, universities, hospitals, banks and financial institutions, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and various industries, among others.
Teva’s strategic plan reportedly includes closing its research and development center in Netanya, two factories in Jerusalem and the selling of its logistics center in Shoham. A number of other Teva’s factories in Israel will be sold according to reports, including the plant in Kiryat Shmona. On Thursday, December 14, hundreds of Teva workers protested the corporate announcement in Jerusalem, Ramat Hovav in the Negev and Kiryat Shmona.
The Histadrut’s Nissankoren spoke about Teva employees’ devotion and pride in the company and accused the board of directors of making unsuccessful deals “The move [the layoffs] is happening while Teva is enjoying 22 billion shekels [$6.2 billion] in tax benefits. A red line has been crossed. The government is not thinking about encouraging Israeli industry – the government is not doing a thing.
“On Sunday, we will declare a half-day general strike till noon and a full day strike at Teva. The entire economy – the airport, banks, seaports, municipalities, government services and health services – will come to a halt until 12pm on Sunday in solidarity with Teva’s employees. Some 7,000 families who depend on Teva [for their livelihood] will not be sleeping at night. What will they tell their children?” Nissankoren asked.
The planned layoffs outraged Hadash and the Communist Party of Israel (CPI), as well. Joint List MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), a leading CPI member, said, “It’s 1,750 versus 20 billion. The first number is the number of Teva workers at risk of losing their jobs. The second number refers to the tax benefits the government has given Teva over the past decade because it ‘created jobs.’ We need to put an end to the absurdity by which we hand out money to the wealthy as a gift and then they spit in our faces… We need to change the laws on encouraging investment so they don’t focus exclusively on the location of factories and their contribution to exports, but also involve long-term obligations to provide stable employment for the workers,” Khenin said.