Some 1,000 Protest in Dimona Against Job Losses at Israel Chemicals Plant

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announces task force to examine unemployment in the south, headed by Arye Dery.

Shirly Seidler
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Protesters demonstrate against job losses at Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL) in Dimona, May 17, 2015.
Protesters demonstrate against job losses at Israel Chemicals Ltd. (ICL) in Dimona, May 17, 2015.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Shirly Seidler

About 1,000 people demonstrated at the entrance to the southern city of Dimona yesterday, protesting a decision by Israel Chemicals (ICL) to fire hundreds of workers.

The demonstrators, who were also protesting the general employment situation in the Negev region, blocked traffic on Route 25 for a while, preventing travel to Be’er Sheva and the Dead Sea. But the road was reopened before noon.

Municipal services in Dimona, Arad and Yeruham were shut yesterday in solidarity. In Dimona, junior-high and high schools were closed as well.

Dimona Mayor Benny Biton said he supported the protest despite being a member of the ruling Likud party. “The residents are more important than the parties,” he declared. “We don’t want to send Dimona 20 years backward. This city is a symbol. It’s united, and its goal is to bolster the [ICL] unions” in their fight against the layoffs.

Later, Biton met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and they agreed that the government would set up a task force on the issue of unemployment in the south. It will be headed by the new Economy Minister Arye Dery.

Dery subsequently met with Negev mayors and said he hoped the issue of ICL’s layoffs would be solved in the next two days. “We have no magic solutions, but we have a plan and we’ll make every effort,” he promised.

On Saturday night, a meeting between ICL’s management and representatives of the Histadrut labor federation ended without a result.

Armond Lancry, who chairs the workers committee at ICL subsidiary Dead Sea Works, accused owner Idan Ofer of moving “knowledge, technology and entire divisions” out of the country, “while firing Israeli workers.”

“State assets are being smuggled away, and you’re keeping mum,” he declared at yesterday’s demonstration, addressing Netanyahu. “Natural resources are being moved abroad in huge quantities to line Idan Ofer’s pockets. The Dead Sea is in danger.

“For decades, I’ve been a member of the Likud Central Committee and chairman of the party’s Dimona branch,” added Lancry. “But it’s hard for me to support a party that doesn’t see the Negev as part of the State of Israel.”

Though Biton insisted the demonstration wasn’t political, about 20 Knesset members participated, mainly from the opposition. The only Likud MK present, Miki Zohar, was booed when he addressed the crowd.

“Likud won the support of more than 40 percent of the Negev and we’ll never forget this,” Zohar pledged. “We’ll fight in the Knesset and everywhere, and ask only one thing – that when the problem is ultimately solved, you don’t forget who solved it.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) also addressed the demonstrators. “I know many of you didn’t vote for me,” he said. “But I’m the opposition leader, and I intend to fight for you and with you, for the sake of social justice and a life of dignity.”

MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) added, “It’s your right to vote Likud, but don’t let them alone, don’t give up, blow up their meetings, make them keep their promises.”

Michael Edry, a Dead Sea Works employee for the last 25 years, said he was disappointed at the management of the ICL workers’ strike, which has already gone on for three months. “We were optimistic at the start, but now, there’s great depression,” he said. “We don’t really see where it will end.”

Jonathan Lis contributed to this report

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage