Nationwide Strike in Israel Called for Sunday Over Teva

Histadrut chief takes 'patriotic' line, saying Teva no longer an 'Israeli company'

At Teva's plant in Hungary: Sign white letters on green background, says "Teva Recept Nelkul". In the background we see a large glass-fronted green and white building that is part of the Teva complex there.
Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

The Histadrut labor federation called a general strike of several hours for Sunday to protest mass layoffs expected to be announced by Teva Pharmaceuticals shortly, the union federation’s chairman, Avi Nissenkorn, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The strike will include airports and seaports, government ministries, local authorities, health maintenance organizations, banks, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, state-owned enterprises and all of Teva’s plants in Israel, Nissenkorn said.

Details about when the strike will begin and how long it will last will be decided later, he said.

“Teva, which was the flagship of Israeli industry, has become the symbol of Israeli industry’s destruction,” Nissenkorn said, striking a patriotic note. “Teva, which grew out of Israeli brains – from an invention at the Weizmann Institute – and advanced the blue and white, is now ceding its status as an Israeli company. It’s abandoning the vision of its founders. The founders are turning in their graves. It wouldn’t be happening if they were still running Teva.”

Nissenkorn was referring to the Copaxone multiple sclerosis drug, which was developed at Weizmann and until recently accounted for a big part of Teva’s profits. The firings, which are expected to cut about a third of the company’s Israeli workforce when formally announced Thursday, are being ordered by Kare Schultz, a Danish business executive who took over as CEO last month.

The layoffs, which could touch as many as 3,000 of Teva’s 68,000 Israeli employees, are part of a plan Schultz has devised to cut costs as the company struggles to cope with the expiry of the last of its Copaxone patents, and repaying $35 billion in debt it ran up by the U.K. generics companies Aventis.

Nissenkorn scored the company for moving to fire employees on a big scale after enjoying what he said was 22 billion shekels ($6.25 billion) in tax benefits since 2006.

“They’re turning their backs on the government and its citizens. The government cannot stay silent and stand idly by. It knew how to give out benefits – now it has to find a solution,” he said.