On Thursday, February 26, Israel’s main labor union threatened to shut down a large part of the country just days before the upcoming parliamentary elections unless one of the largest companies in the country reversed a plan to reduce its workforce. “We need to cause shock waves here,” said Avi Nissenkorn, head of the Histadrut Labor Federation which represents hundreds of thousands of workers. Nissenkorn threatened to expand an ongoing dispute which has continued for weeks with the privatized potash producer, Israel Chemicals (ICL), to a general strike in all of southern Israel unless the job cuts announced by the monopoly are annulled. ICL has exclusive rights to mine minerals in the Dead Sea.
Last week, Israel Chemicals workers demonstrated in Beer Sheva as part of their efforts to ignite public support for the position of the Histadrut, following similar demonstrations in recent days in other southern towns like Dimona and Arad. Polls show a tight race leading up to the March 17 elections, during which the contending parties’ campaigns have been dominated by economic issues like the high cost of living and workers’ wages.