Judge Grants Pri Hagalil Workers Temporary Reprieve

The Haifa District Court ruled yesterday against putting the Pri Hagalil company into immediate receivership and granted until March 1 for proposals that would rescue the economically ailing firm from closing.

District Court Judge Alex Keysari made his ruling following four hours of deliberations, and said that a discussion will be held on March 5 to consider the various proposals for revamping the company holding the Hatzor Haglilit food processing plant, in the north.

"The court has granted an eight day hiatus and we are calling on the government to deal with the issue seriously and maybe Pri Hagalil can be saved," said Yona Fartuk, chairman of the Upper Galilee section of the Histadrut Labor Federation. "The court has given us an opportunity and we can use it and be saved."

Moti Haziza, who heads the workers' union at the plant, said, "the judge ruled that we are right. He gave us reason to be a bit more optimistic, but we are still in no position to sleep well at night. I feel more calm than I did four hours ago, but I am still worried."

On a number of occasions during the deliberations, Haziza burst out at the representatives of banks that requested Pri Hagalil be placed under receivership.

At a later stage the judge gave him an opportunity to make a statement.

In a very emotive speech that was often interrupted with choking tears, Haziza said he wondered how it is possible, "to so easily place us under receivership? What has the worker who works at the plant for 30 and 40 years done wrong? Can anyone understand what we are going through?"

"I have never stood before a court, and why do I deserve this? What has brought us to this situation? Even as it is the salaries are barely enough to bring food home," Haziza said. "We do not want unemployment benefits, and no pity, just to be allowed to work. We used to be normal people and now we have become worthless."

After he left the courtroom, Haziza asked to rest, having recently received treatment for a heart condition. When he recovered he said, "Capitalism has taken us over. Why should a child watch his father strike and beg for bread?"

At the start of the deliberations dozens of workers burst into the courtroom and protested the possibility that the plant may be placed under receivership.

"Receivership is the only way that enables the sale of factories as active businesses," attorney Ofer Attias, representing the banks, said. "The image that is being created is distorted: the request for receivership is not for closing the plant, but it is the only available way at this time to allow the sale of the plant as an active business."

Workers at Pri Hagalil fear the plant will be closed and they will lose their jobs.

"To tell the workers that receivership is in their favor is condescending and patronizing," said attorney Galila Hornstein, representing the workers on behalf of the Histadrut. "The workers will receive no money as a result [of receivership]. The bank wants it because it can sell the equipment and the assets. We are asking for a creditors arrangement."