Government Aid Package for Bagir Highly Unlikely

The government will consider giving financial aid to the Bagir textile company to reduce the number of workers it plans to fire. However, the chances that such aid will be approved are slight, according to company and government officials who attended a meeting on the subject yesterday.

The company plans to dismiss 750 of the 1,080 workers at its Kiryat Gat plant, due to annual losses of $10-12 million.

This morning, workers will demonstrate opposite the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem in favor of such aid. Participants at yesterday's meeting, however, said approval was not likely. Unlike other plants that have received emergency aid, there seems to be little chance for Bagir to become profitable, due to the high costs of local manufacturing compared to that overseas.

However, they added, there still is a chance the government might offer aid due to social considerations. And Bagir's management said it was encouraged by the meeting, and believed that it might be possible to dismiss fewer workers.

Trade and Industry Minister Director-General Amir Hayek said the government will consider the matter over the next four days. During this period, the company has agreed not to release the names of those to be fired.

For the workers, racked by worry and sleepless nights, this was small comfort. They milled about in the courtyard yesterday, refusing to enter production areas.

They were, however, pleased when the head of the Histadrut's local chapter, Shalom Schindler, told them that contrary to media reports, the organization has refused to accept a list of those to be dismissed. He said that first the union wants the criteria that will govern the layoffs, and is demanding that widows and widowers, single parents or both members of a couple not be fired. The union will then discuss each name on the dismissals list with worker and management representatives.

Yaish Cohen, 51, who has worked at the plant for 30 years together with his wife, Annette, said it was comforting to hear that the Histadrut will not let both of them get fired. Nevertheless, the tension was almost unbearable. "Seven hundred and fifty layoffs out of 1,080 [employees] means that every one of us is likely to find himself on the outside," he said.

Bagir CEO Ofer Gilboa denied media reports that the company was planning to break off negotiations with the Histadrut and starting to send dismissal letters. Bagir will continue negotiating with workers' representatives over who should be dismissed and what severance pay they should receive, he said.