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Manufacturers Association of Israel President Shraga Brosh slammed MK Amir Peretz's plan to raise the minimum wage over the weekend.

"Raising minimum wages by Knesset legislation, pursuant to Amir Peretz's plan, will lead to the closure of hundreds of factories, companies and businesses, because they won't be able to meet accompanying costs," Brosh charged. The association objects to declarations made by the newly-elected Labor Party chair that he would try to raise the minimum wage from the current monthly salary of NIS 3,355 to $1,000.

The average monthly salary in the industrial sector is NIS 9,500, about NIS 2,000 more than the national average, Brosh said. "Significantly raising the minimum wage will push employee salaries up at all levels," Brosh said. He claimed that such a trend would result in layoffs, "exactly the opposite result from what Peretz wants to accomplish."

Still, Brosh said that employer associations are prepared to negotiate with the Histadrut labor federation to reach an understanding on wage matters and labor conditions. "Coercive change through legislation, which would force a new reality in factories, is awful. We must take the route of dialogue," he said.

Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce President Uriel Lynn said last night "not to take Peretz's declarations too seriously." However, "I don't reject out of hand raising the minimum wage in stages, in line with economic feasibility."