The Best Place to Work in Israel

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Intel and the Israel Electric Corporation have been battling it out for the hearts of employees for seven years now, striving to be crowned the country's best place to work.

During the first few years that BDI and TheMarker began ranking Israel's best places to work, the government power monopoly handily took first place. But in 2008, the global high-tech giant unseated the IEC, as it, too, provides excellent terms.

That year the IEC slipped to sixth place, rebounding to the top again only this year, pushing Intel down to a close second place.

IEC and Intel seem like very different companies, but there are also striking similarities: Both are very large - the IEC employs nearly 13,000 workers, while Intel Israel has 9,000; both have offices or installations around the country; both are established companies and offer excellent employment terms; both try not to fire employees, offering some certainty in a tumultuous job market.

But Intel is a private company, and when it announced that it would not be firing workers during the global financial crisis in 2009, it paid the price out of its own pocket. IEC employees, on the other hand, have their jobs protected thanks to collective wage agreements and aggressive unions, which make it very hard for management to fire workers. Intel is a profitable international firm that lives on innovation and sales; the IEC is a local, government-owned company with a massive NIS 72 billion deficit, and some of that debt will be borne by the public due to lack of choice, through higher power prices.

Intel doesn't publish its salary data, but it's fair to assume that workers are paid well. It also offers lots of attractive benefits, including letting employees work from home one day a week, and a program that lets new mothers return to work gradually.

Conditions at the IEC, in comparison, make headlines. A report by the Finance Ministry salary director from the beginning of the year reported that the average wage there is NIS 30,000 a month, while managers average NIS 80,000. Add to this benefits like free electricity, handsome pensions and job security, and it's clear why workers rank this company on top.

"So what if we don't like that company?" said one high-tech worker who wants to get hired at the IEC. "You can't buy food with love."

That sentiment also applies to the Ashdod Port, which ranked 30 on the list. The port has been making headlines itself lately due to repeated strikes, rampant nepotism, near total union control and massive salaries (navigators earn NIS 70,000 a month). Despite all this - or maybe because of it - it shot up nine places from last year's ranking, placing it well above companies including food manufacturer Osem (42) and high-tech company Verint (46). The lesson is clear - it's fun to cluck our tongues at aggressive unions, but it's even more fun to be protected by them.

The rankings were based on surveys with tens of thousands of workers and corporate statistics for the 12 months that ended in March 2013. The surveyors started with a sample of 2,000 employees, asking them what they valued in a workplace. They then conducted a broader survey, weighing the results against what workers said they valued in the initial survey.

The surveyors also conducted internal surveys at more than 60 companies, as well as among university students and manpower company managers.

The surveys were conducted over the course of a year and in locations around the country.

There were other surprises among the top ten - third place went to Bank Leumi, which shot up from eighth last year and unseated pharmaceuticals giant Teva, which fell to fifth. Leumi's competitor Bank Hapoalim ranked seventh, slightly lower than last year.

Leumi and Hapoalim, the country's largest banks, recently reported massive profits of nearly NIS 1 billion a year, and both pay astronomical salaries to their top executives - NIS 5 million to NIS 10 million for the CEO. Both banks announced efficiency plans for this year that involved the laying off about 800 workers apiece. Both banks also tend to hire new workers on a temporary basis for the first five years, and fire them shortly before that benchmark. So it's surprising that workers still ranked these banks at the top.

Other banks also rank well as employers: Discount took 12th place; Mizrahi Tefahot, 37; Beinleumi (FIBI) ranked 35; and even Bank Otzar Hahayal and the Bank of Israel, which didn't make last year's ranking, came out 49th and 50th, respectively.

Bank subsidiaries did well, too. Credit card company Leumi Card ranked 19; Isracard jumped 9 places into 20th. Visa Cal gained 5 seats to place 26th.

Other companies also did well within the finance sector. Israel's six insurance companies also made it into the top 52 slots. Direct Insurance led the pack at 16th, up from 22nd last year, despite the recent headlines about its CEO's sky high salary. The other companies trailed in rankings between 43rd and 52nd.

A good year for high-tech, bad for cellular companies

High-tech companies take up five of the first ten slots. Intel was second, of course, while HP ranked fourth, despite TheMarker's recent revelation that the company discriminates against ultra-Orthodox employees. Google, renowned as an excellent employer by international standards, came in sixth in the local ranking; while Microsoft was eighth. Amdocs placed ninth, despite firing hundreds of workers in 2009 - which sent it plummeting to 34th at the time. With the exception of Google, which is considered innovative, these companies are considered large, stable players in the high-tech field.

Cellular companies, meanwhile, dropped in the rankings. Coincidentally or not, their status - and profitability - fell over the past year, as tough new competition shook the three big players' control over the market. Partner, ranked 11 last year, tumbled to 23, while Cellcom dropped to 29 from last year's 16; Pelephone, which earned itself bad press while fighting workers' attempt to unionize, fell 17 slots to land at 40. Landline company Bezeq maintained a relatively stable slot at 15 (down one from last year).

Multichannel television companies Yes (64) and Hot (71) also made the list, though both ranked about 10 slots lower than last year.

Iron Dome manufacturer Raphael ranked at a high 14, up from 21 last year. Could the anti-missile system's success during the last round of fighting contributed? Perhaps, but either way, defense companies ranked well - Elbit ranked 11, up two slots, while Israel Aerospace Industries was stable at 21, and Elta jumped 9 slots into 25th place. In Israel, for better or worse, the defense industry is a stable place to work.

Traditional, non-defense manufacturers also appeared on the list. Makhteshim Agan was 32nd, and Dead Sea Industries was 34th. Dead Sea Industries gives its workers some of Israel's most expensive holiday gifts, valued at thousands of shekels apiece, and the management recently announced that workers would be receiving tens of millions of shekels in bonuses. That said, the company's location in the south is not considered an attractive place to live.

Food manufacturer Strauss ranked 36, despite the damage to its reputation amid the cost-of-living protests.

Some 11 companies made the list this year, pushing another 11 off the bottom. Electric car company Better Place fell off the rankings from its previous place at 75, which may not be a surprise given that the company is struggling and has been laying off employees. Israel Chemicals also dropped from the list, after raking 90th last year. Despite ranking 32nd last year, investment house Excellence also fell off the list this year.

Another notable absence was department store chain Mashbir Lazarchan, which ranked between 36th and 40th over the past several years but this year did not make the ranking at all.

In 2011, telecom company Mirs appeared poised to seize a sizable market share, and ranked 33rd. Last year it came in 52nd, and this year it was not in the rankings at all.

Hard at work at Intel Israel.Credit: Intel
The best companies in Israel to work forCredit: Haaretz
Offices of Intel and Elbit Imaging in southern Haifa.Credit: Zvi Roger