Makhetshim Agan - Oct. 29, 2010
Makhetshim Agan’s plant in Ashdod. Will the Chinese soon be its new owner? Photo by Makhetshim Agan
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The negotiations between the the management of Makhteshim Agan Industries and its workers, represented by the Histadrut labor federation and their union, are nearing an agreement.

The two sides met on Wednesday and again yesterday and it now seems that they have reached agreement on most of the issues. Nonetheless, the deal is not yet sealed and last-minute changes are likely.

Haim Gavrieli, the CEO of IDB Holdings, is conducting the negotiations on the IDB side, with Histadrut officials and Makhteshim Agan's union on the other side. The agro-chemicals manufacturer makes crop protection products.

One of the main points of the new agreement is for Makhteshim Agan to keep its present manufacturing operations in Israel for the next six years. In addition, some 150 to 200 employees aged 57 or older would take early retirement over the next three years. New workers aged 40 or more would be guaranteed the same early retirement privileges for the next 20 years.

The cuts in manpower and other benefits will apply not only to production-line workers in Makhteshim's plants in Ramat Hovav (outside Be'er Sheva ) and Ashdod, but also to staff in the company's Airport City headquarters near Ben Gurion Airport.

The company will be allowed to hire a few dozen temporary employees to replace the workers it lets go.

Two weeks ago, the Histadrut announced a labor dispute at Makhteshim Agan, at the employees' request. The cause for the dispute is the possible intention of Makhteshim Agan's controlling shareholder, the IDB group, to sell Makhteshim Agan to China National Chemical Corporation, known as ChemChina. Workers are afraid such a sale would lead to large layoffs among the 1,400 employees.

IDB and the Histadrut both declined to comment.

Makhteshim Agan shares rose yesterday by 2.7%.