Minister Wants to Ban Firing by Firms That Get R&D Grants

Should companies receiving support from the Chief Scientist's Office be allowed to take the money and then fire workers? Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) thinks the answer is a definite no, and is acting to do something about it. Yesterday, Ben-Eliezer met with senior officials from his ministry and the Finance Ministry on the matter.

Today a company that receives investment grants from the ministry is required to meet specific employment targets, but those who only receive research and development grants from the Chief Scientist are allowed to fire employees the same day they get the money.

Chief Scientist Eli Opper, however, claims there is no connection between the two types of grants, and if a company receives money towards a specific R&D project, that does not mean the firm should not be able to fire workers from a different project.

The ministry was unable to provide any funding for the last month, though, as the treasury has yet to provide the Knesset Finance Committee with the detail of the ministry's 2009 budget, and until the committee approves the allocations, no money can be allocated for the Chief Scientist, Investment Center and business mentoring projects. The treasury said the problem will be solved in the next few days.

Ben-Eliezer wants to implement a program for hiring fired high-tech workers in traditional industries, like manufacturing and food production, and says the project will start within a few days with an investment of NIS 10 million, which will provide work for 100 people.

Opper says it has been shown that for every $1,000 invested in R&D, 45 people are hired.