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More than 100,000 Israelis will lose their jobs this year, predicts labor leader Ofer Eini.

Addressing a convention of civil servants in Ramat Gan yesterday, Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini referred to the escalating violence of protests at Pri Galil. Yesterday workers barricaded themselves into the food processing plant in the northern Israeli town of Hatzor Haglilit to protest the factory's all-but-certain collapse due to mounting debt.

Eini called the events at Pri Hagalil "the spark that would ignite social struggle throughout the country. The government must heed it," he said.

Fifty of the plant's employees barricaded themselves inside the canning factory and prevented goods from entering or leaving.

The company's 500 workers had gone on strike to protest the request by banks Leumi and Discount to put the company into receivership.

Eini criticized the banks' actions over the company's debts, calling on them to show humanity and not to evaluate the plant's future solely in terms of cold, hard numbers.

He said the banks have to realize that Pri Galil's workers earn very low wages, "and that all in all they got swept into this crisis because of a few speculators who make deals."

The solution to the economic crisis would depend in large part on the government responding to the calls of the union and of small-scale employers to cooperate with them, said the labor leader.

"We extended a hand to the outgoing finance minister and proposed that the workers do their part to ameliorate the crisis, but he did not demonstrate leadership and remained stuck in his belief that he is the font of all wisdom," Eini said.

The union chief said that prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu told Eini that he agreed to hold talks with the Histadrut and would not fight with the unions as he did during his stint as finance minister, from 2003-2005.