Ramadan Dispute Leads to SodaStream Dismissals

Company denies it fired Muslim workers who complained about receiving insufficient food to break the Ramadan fast.

Palestinians had worked alongside Jews at the SodaStream factory: Mishor Adumim industrial park, Jan. 30, 2014, before the company had to move. The picture shows a female worker wearing blue clothing and a lilac headscarf, packaging.

SodaStream, which makes soda machines for home use, fired 60 Palestinian workers this month from its plant in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim over a dispute about the food they received during their shifts to break the day-long fast during the month of Ramadan.

WAC-MAAN, the trade union representing the plant’s Palestinian workers, said that in early July workers on the evening shift complained that the food they received was insufficient.

“Sixty workers, who are prohibited from bringing food from home because of Jewish dietary laws, found themselves without enough food after the 16-hour fast,” Maan’s Jerusalem coordinator, Erez Wagner, said.

Wagner said the workers approached management and explained that it would be difficult for them to work through the night without sufficient food, noting that it was dangerous for them to work the big machines when they were both hungry and tired.

According to Wagner, one executive accused the workers of deliberately provoking confrontation, an accusation the workers denied.

In the end, the shift manager sent the workers home, saying he was canceling the night shift that day and promising that the problem would be resolved the next day.

“The next day, all the night-shift workers received termination notices. They were instructed to return their employee IDs and were treated with hostility; they weren’t allowed to collect their personal belongings,” Wagner said.

“SodaStream’s CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, likes to present his company as an oasis of coexistence between [Jews and Arabs], but in reality he acts totally differently.”

SodaStream said in a statement that the workers were dismissed because they called a wildcat strike, without genuine cause.

A figure in the company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was regrettable that WAC-MAAN went to the media before checking the facts.

“The dismissal process was conducted properly, the workers were given a hearing and they were not denied their severance payments,” the source said.