The municipal workers of the cities of Dimona, Arad, and Yerucham in the Negev will be on strike on Sunday, May 17, in solidarity with the workers who have been striking the privatized Israel Chemicals (ICL) for months. Dimona’s city council officials have declared a city-wide strike for Sunday in solidarity with both the workers of ICL and about 60 employees of Meteor, a local producer of agricultural netting that is in danger of shutting down. Schools will be closed, and Highway 25, a main thoroughfare in the south that passes through Dimona, will be blocked, they said.
Dimona Mayor Beni Bitton announced the strike at a special meeting on Tuesday night, May 12, with city council members and with the chairmen of the workers’ committee of the major employers in the region, including Israel Chemicals, the Dead Sea Works, and Meteor. Addressing the head of the workers’ committee, Bitton said, “We are your soldiers.” Subsequently he declared “All of Dimona will be shut down,” at an emergency council meeting, which was also attended by around 1,000 ICL and Meteor employees who are facing layoffs. “We’ve made a tough decision; but we are like a fist and we support the workers all the way.”
Talks that took place last Tuesday night between Histadrut labor union chairman Avi Nissenkorn and Nir Gilad, chairman of the board at Israel Chemicals, remained fruitless as roughly 170 workers still face layoffs or involuntary early retirement. While the workers want their fate to be decided by an independent arbitrator, the management of Israel Chemicals seeks to retain control over who will be let go.
Many of the employees of the Dead Sea Works and Bromine Compounds who have been on strike for the past three months are also from Dimona, Arad, and Yeruham further compounding the employment crisis in the area. A hearing on the Histadrut’s demand for a restraining order against the layoffs will take place in the Regional Labor Court in Beersheba on Monday, May 18.