A.M. General Strike over Teva Job Cuts Shuts Down Much of Israel

Large swaths of Israel’s capitalist economy were shut down on Sunday morning, December 17, as result of a general solidarity strike declared by the Histadrut Labor Federation over plans by the pharmaceutical giant Teva to lay off some 1,750 employees in Israel.

On Sunday morning, Teva employees gathered outside the pharmaceutical company’s offices in Jerusalem, in the coastal cities of Netanya and Ashdod, and in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva, the Ramat Hovav industrial park in the Negev and northern Kyriat Shmona “Migada” plant, in demonstrations coordinated with a half-day general strike that closed down Israel’s airports, banks, hospitals, factories and government offices during the morning hours.

Teva workers demonstrating on Sunday, December 17, in Ashdod

Teva workers demonstrating on Sunday, December 17, in Ashdod (Photo: Histadrut)

The strike — the largest labor action to hit the country in several years — also closed down the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, post offices, the Knesset, ports, insurance companies, the courts, post offices, phone companies, the Israel Electric Corporation, universities, local municipalities and regional councils along with Teva facilities across the country.

The company’s restructuring plan, announced last week, will see the firing of 14,000 Teva workers worldwide over the next two years, more than a quarter of Teva’s global workforce of over 55,000.

In Jerusalem, protesters blocked traffic as they began a march from the company’s two factories — both threatened with closure — in the Har Hotzvim industrial area towards the Prime Minister’s Office. Protesters set tires on fire and blocked the main road into Jerusalem. Some 400 employees of the generic drug giant Teva barricaded themselves in the Jerusalem factories. The protesting workers prevented managers from leaving the buildings, while other people — including relatives of the employees — burned tires outside. Demonstrators in Petah Tikva also blocked traffic on the main Jabotinsky thoroughfare. In Ashdod, workers set tires on fire outside the Teva offices. In Netanya workers blocked Route 57 and in the Negev they obstructed traffic travelling along the main highway to Beer Sheva.

Histadrut Chairman, Avi Nissenkorn said Sunday evening the solidarity strike is meant to send a “clear message” that the union will not accept the layoff of workers. “We are fighting for the workers of Teva as well as to save industrial jobs in Israel”, said Nissenkorn. “Organized labor has been mobilized and is sending a clear message.”

The Communist Party of Israel and Hadash have demanded full nationalization of Teva under workers’ control.

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