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Motti Haziza, head of the Pri Hagalil employees' union, called on the tent protesters on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard to come to Hatzor in the Galilee and demonstrate with them against management's plan to dismiss several dozen workers.

"This is where the real social struggle is," Haziza said. "People are fighting here for their lives, for bread, for their right to support themselves."

"We will block Highway 90 and march to the homes of the prime minister and finance minister," he said.

At a workers' meeting yesterday, Haziza said he was cutting off all communication with management and was returning the dismissal letters that the union had received for 58 workers, at the behest of Histadrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini.

"We will not agree to have workers pay a heavy price because of a dispute between the government and the [factory] owners," said Eini. "As far as we're concerned, a solution is possible, and we will not agree to firings until all efforts have been made to find a solution."

Pri Hagalil's management had already informed Histadrut that another 60 workers were to be fired in two weeks, but later said it would suspend that action following a direct appeal from Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon.

Talal Heib - a 41-year-old married father of three from Tuba-Zangaria - has been working at the factory for 26 years and says it appears he is among those being dismissed. He is a department manager who says he earns NIS 7,000 a month, including overtime and night shifts.

Heib said that the factory employs 40 permanent workers from Tuba-Zangaria and dozens of others on a seasonal basis.

"Even now, there's barely any [other] work for village residents," he said. Two and a half years ago, the factory nearly closed after it ran into financial difficulties, but it was purchased by Zaki Shalom and Mordechai Kuperly, the owners of the Hatzi Hinam grocery chain.

They invested some NIS 87 million in the factory, but claim they did not get the subsidy they were promised from the government's Investment Center, which they claim was to be 24 percent of their investment.