As Workers Protest, Pri Galil Cannery Puts Dismissals on Hold for a Month

The treasury and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry told to find a way to provide factory with promised investment aid.

The dismissal of 50 workers at the Pri Galil factory in Hatzor Haglilit has been suspended for a month. During this time, government officials are meant to find a way to provide the plant with the investment aid its owners say had been promised to them.

The treasury and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry were instructed to find a solution at a Monday meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, during which some 200 Pri Galil workers were demonstrating in front of the Knesset.

Pri Galil - Olivier Fitoussi - 22112011
Olivier Fitoussi

"If no solution is found, the Finance Committee will move its meetings on matters relating to the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry to the Pri Galil factory, in front of the workers," committee chairman MK Moshe Gafni said.

The owners of the vegetable and fruit processing plant say the government has not come up with the NIS 18 million they were promised when they took over the factory and saved it from collapse three years ago. The treasury says it cannot pay the grant because the factory isn't meeting one of the criteria for receiving the money - namely, that it export at least 25% of its products.

Gafni asked treasury and ministry officials to investigate alternative tracks for paying the money. "Check out the proposal by MK Amir Peretz under which a grant will be given retroactively because it employs people in the periphery," Gafni said.

Labor Party leader MK Shelly Yachimovich demanded that the government meet its commitment. "Firing 50 people in Hatzor Haglilit is like firing 5,000 people in Tel Aviv," she said. "It will totally destroy the livelihood of an entire town."

Hezi Zweig, the director of the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry's Investment Center said that in the future, firms that failed to meet the conditions of the Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investment would be able to get grants of up to 20% of their future investment, and that a director-general's circular would be issued shortly explaining this.

To approve a grant retroactively, however, would pose a legal problem, Zweig said.

Moshe Oren of the treasury's Budgets Department incurred the wrath of the MKs when he said, "We know nothing about any government promise to the Pri Galil factory."

Several infuriated MKs confirmed what Pri Galil owner Moshe Efraim had testified to earlier - that former Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer had promised the funds.