Israeli Low-cost Retailer Rami Levy Fined for Union Busting Efforts

Court awards unprecedented damages of 1.5 million shekels ($408,000), saying Rami Levy quashed unionization efforts.

Rami Levy, founder and chief executive officer of Rami Levy Chain Stores Hashikma Marketing 2006 Ltd., Israel's largest discount food retailer, sits on a row of shopping carts outside a Rami Levy Supermarket in Jerusalem, Israel on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014.
Bloomberg

Rami Levy and his self-named supermarket chain infringed on employees’ right to organize, the Be’er Sheva Regional Labor Court ruled yesterday. The court ordered the payment of unprecedented damages of 1.5 million shekels ($408,000), saying Rami Levy quashed unionization efforts.

“Under the serious, exceptional and extreme circumstances, damages should be awarded accordingly, taking note of the maximum extent of each violation individually,” the court said. Rami Levy and his chain were accused of infringing on the employees’ right to strike and harshly criticizing those who attempted to unionize the retailer’s workforce.

Employees of Bikurei Hashikma, which was acquired by Rami Levy’s company, Rami Levy Hashikma, unionized through the Histadrut labor federation in November 2015, after the buyout.

Rami Levy had sought to merge the workforce of Bikurei Hashikma with the original chain’s employees. The Histadrut opposed the move, because the employees of Rami Levy Hashikma remained nonunion. On that issue, the court ruled that the effort to merge the workforces was not done in good faith and instead was simply an effort to scuttle unionization.

Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn said the court confirmed that Rami Levy’s actions were against the law and were meant “to infringe on the workers’ most fundamental rights.” He added that the amount of the punitive was the most ever awarded in Israel for infringing on the right to organize, reflecting the seriousness of the company’s conduct and “sending a message to any employer who believes himself to be above the law.”

Rami Levy did not respond to requests to comment by press time.