Dimona Reactor Executives Engage in Nepotism, Ex-staffers Accuse

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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A partial view of Israel's Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Negev desert.
A partial view of Israel's Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Negev desert.Credit: AFP
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

Nine relatives of the deputy head of human resources at the Dimona reactor and her predecessor in the job have been recruited over the years to work in the Negev Nuclear Research Center. The nine joined the reactor after the deputy head and her predecessor served in key roles in the human resources department. Haaretz has collected several testimonies regarding the hiring and promotion of these relatives at the reactor. The Negev Nuclear Research Center denies the claims of nepotism, but declines to provide figures on the number of employees related to one another.

The exact number of employees, which include a small number of scientists alongside a large number of other workers in technical and management positions, is classified. Employment at the reactor is considered highly desirable, as the salaries are the highest of any in the civil service. The average salary at the reactor is NIS 26,500 (nearly $7,000) per month, and just 1.6 percent of employees there earn less than the average national wage. Convserations with workers there indicate the complaints about irregularities and nepotism emanate from the technical and management areas.

The human resources division is in charge of employee affairs. The second-most senior position in the division, and the person who essentially serves as deputy head of the department, is the manager of the human resources department. The department is currently headed by a longtime employee at the reactor, who has also held a position in the Civil Service Commission. When she comes to work at the reactor each morning, she allegedly sees a lot of familiar faces: relatives who all began working at the reactor after she did. They include her sister, who works as a secretary to someone in the administration and her brother-in-law, who was first hired to work there as a driver and advanced to become director of employee absorption, a position belonging to the human resources department. Additionally, her brother, an electrician by training, works as a supervisor. The next generation of the family is also represented in Dimona, including her niece and nephew.

Her predecessor in her position ran the human resources department for years, before recently being “loaned out” to another government body. She left behind at the reactor her husband and three brothers, one who is a bus driver at the reactor (one of 35 drivers employed in Dimona to transport workers) and another in the fire department. One person at the reactor said that the latter brother formerly worked in the stockroom and was promoted to the fire department, a very good position due to the opportunity to work shifts and earn lots of overtime.

One retiree from the reactor told Haaretz that the reactor has a very strong union as well as veteran managers. "The managers there do whatever they want," he said. "There’s a culture there of 'You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, take care of my family and I’ll take care of yours.' They bring in friends and relatives and they all look out for each other.”

Another retiree said something similar: “There’s one division manager who brought his girlfriend’s daughter in to work there. There’s another department manager whose husband started to work at the reactor at age 42, which is an unusual age to start working there.”

Haaretz asked the reactor administration for the precise number of employees who are related to each other, and for comment on the hiring practices described here. In response, the Negev Nuclear Research Center provided this statement: “The Negev Nuclear Research Center is one of the largest employers in the south and naturally most of the employees are residents of nearby cities. The large communal localities are a key source of manpower for hiring employees for the center. As is well known, the south does not have many places that can offer employment in the scientific and technological fields, and as a result, there is a trend of migration to the center of the country."

According to the statement, every job candidate at the research center is considered on the basis of skills and not connections.

"The best candidate among all the applicants is the one that is ultimately selected for the job. We do not rule out a candidate who has reached the finish line as the best applicant because one of his relatives is already employed at the center," the statement read. "The civil service does not ban the employment of relatives. It permits this on condition that the rules that it has set and which appear in the service regulations are met. The Negev Nuclear Research Center scrupulously operates according to the rules."

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