Clubmarket Collapse Blamed as Strauss, Tempo Lay Off Staffers

Strauss-Elite has laid off 50 temporary employees due to the collapse of the Clubmarket supermarket chain, Haaretz has learned.

Strauss-Elite has laid off 50 temporary employees due to the collapse of the Clubmarket supermarket chain, Haaretz has learned.

And in yet another ripple effect of Clubmarket's collapse, Tempo, the country's second largest soft drink company, has also announced plans to lay off dozens of workers.

Food industry sources said a few of the Strauss-Elite layoffs might be due to the normal summer drop in chocolate sales, but agreed that most were due to Clubmarket's collapse. The employees in question all worked at Clubmarket stores, where they were responsible for organizing Strauss-Elite products on the shelves and offering samples to customers.

Clubmarket owes Strauss-Elite some NIS 65 million, one of the largest sums the supermarket chain owes to any of its suppliers. According to Strauss-Elite's report to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, sales to Clubmarket account for 5.5 percent of its total turnover.

Tempo, in contrast, did not specifically connect its dismissals to Clubmarket, but food industry sources said that there almost certainly was a connection, since the supermarket chain's woes have weakened demand. Moreover, Clubmarket owes Tempo NIS 11 million, which is liable to translate into a loss when the company publishes its second-quarter financial statements later this month.

Meanwhile, chairman of the Histadrut labor federation MK Amir Peretz proposed yesterday that the National Insurance Institute guarantee an NIS 8 million loan to Clubmarket in order to assist the chain's recovery and thereby prevent its workers from joining the ranks of the unemployed.

Peretz said NIS 8 million was no more than what the NII would have to pay to Clubmarket's workers should the chain be liquidated, whereas by giving the chain a guarantee, the NII "would restore customers' faith in Clubmarket" and thereby help avert liquidation. He raised the idea at a meeting with Clubmarket's trustees, attorney Shlomo Nass and accountant Gabi Trabelsi, and NII Director General Yigal Ben Shalom.

Ben Shalom told Peretz that he would give him an answer today. However, a senior NII official told Haaretz that acceding to Peretz's suggestion would be legally problematic. The NII has never before given financial guarantees to a commercial company that has not yet entered liquidation, the official said.

At the meeting, the parties agreed that the 50 workers employed in two loss-making stores that Clubmarket's trustees have decided to close - one in Acre and one in Bat Yam - would be transferred to other Clubmarket stores rather than be fired. However, between 30 and 40 of the chain's 114 stores are loss-making, so it is doubtful that this arrangement could be maintained if the trustees decide to close additional stores.