Hadera Paper Threatens to Fire 200 Workers as Strike Intensifies

Strike launched after unionized workers refused management’s demands for salary concessions.

Hadera Paper says it has decided to dismiss about 200 employees after a month of failed attempts to hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement with union representatives.

The union represents only a small proportion of Hadera Paper employees, but a strike by unionized workers has led management to shut down operations.

The strike was launched after unionized workers refused management’s demands for salary concessions.

Workers are demanding, for example, that a 4.5% bonus that has been paid annually be continued, but management insists that the bonus be tied to the company’s financial results.

Matters accelerated over the past week, which saw violent protests by employees at the gates of the company’s main plant in Hadera, trapping management personnel on the site. Police were called to free them.

The workers’ committee pins the blame for the company’s troubles on failed management policies and says it is the workers who are now being asked to pay the price. Management is “disseminating false figures on workers’ salaries and is committing extortion through threatened layoffs,” the committee stated.

Management personnel have taken a 10% salary cut. Other employees earning more than NIS 10,000 a month have been told their wages would be cut by between 2.5% and 8%.

Management also says payment of a 13th monthly salary, which was considered a regular component of employees’ wages, would only be paid during years when the company is profitable.

Although the company ended 2012 without a loss, by the third quarter of this year, Hadera Paper reported a loss of NIS 61 million, in large part a result in a global decline of 3% to 4% in the consumption of white paper.

“Over all these weeks, I have said that if we don’t manage to arrive at an agreement regarding wage cuts, it would come to layoffs,” Hadera Paper CEO Ofer Bloch said.

“The worksite in Hadera is shut down and there is no choice but putting an end to the fight. Management has decided to issue a clear directive to have lists already prepared at the beginning of the week of employees to be laid off and to summon about 200 people for [dismissal] hearings.”

Bloch added that at the same time, the company continues to pursue talks with the Histadrut labor federation and the workers’ committee at Hadera Paper over a wage pact for unionized employees, whom he said earn an average of about NIS 25,000 per month.

“We have to cut expenses. The cuts could have come in wages or layoffs, and now we have gotten to the current situation.”

If the workers fail to engage in serious negotiations, Bloch said, by Wednesday or Thursday the layoffs will begin.

Nir Keidar