protest by Pri Hagalil - Yaron Kaminsky - 15112011
'Job security isn’t a luxury,' says one sign at a protest by Pri Hagalil workers facing dismissal. Photo by Yaron Kaminsky
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The owners of Pri Hagalil want to move operations from their Hatzor Haglilit factory to Nahariya as part of an efficiency plan. Seeking efficiency is a good thing - except for the workers who stand to lose their jobs as a result: Moving operations out of Hatzor Haglilit will leave 220 workers unemployed, and most are unlikely to find new employment due to their age and lack of training.

The owners say they're moving the factory because the government didn't make good on a commitment to give them a NIS 18-million grant. They say the grant was promised by former Industry and Trade Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, even though he says he never made any such promise: All he promised is that he would try to find a legal way to give them the money, he said.

The state allocates grant funding based on government-set criteria intended to advance national goals. This isn't another instance of bad bureaucracy; it's intended to ensure that the money is used, for instance, to increase employment in the periphery at relatively high salaries, or to improve plants and encourage growth. The criteria are intended to keep money from going to anyone who isn't working toward these goals at the expense of those who are.

Pri Hagalil does not meet the criteria for receiving a grant based on past investment, despite its owners' arguments. And even if the government were to give the factory NIS 18 million now, there's no guarantee requests for help would stop there. In theory, the owners could demand a new grant every year in exchange for keeping the factory open.

Ongoing government assistance to Pri Hagalil won't help Hatzor Haglilit. Instead, it would perpetuate the community's weak socioeconomic status by denying the younger generation an incentive to learn skills that would let them find better-paying jobs at growing companies. The government's decision to encourage another factory to move into Hatzor Haglilit in Pri Hagalil's place is a wise one. The government's responsibility is to make sure residents, even the older ones, have jobs. Better to invest money in a brighter future for the workers than to line the owners' pockets.