Shamir Staff Claims Owners Paid Bank Debt Before Wages

Seventy-six employees of Shamir Food Industries yesterday asked Tel Aviv District Court Judge Varda Alshech to take immediate action to see that they receive at least part of the salaries they are owed. Last week, salad manufacturer Shamir was granted 21 days protection from its creditors.

The workers claim that 70 of them who live in the West Bank have not even received their November salaries. The checks Shamir gave them were not honored by its bank after they were deposited.

The workers claim they are owed millions of shekels in unpaid wages. This has left many of them close to financial ruin. Some are unable to afford basic groceries, and others may lose their mortgages, they say.

The employees say they were informed that shortly after the court granted the company protection from bankruptcy, the company's owners violated the law by depositing company checks and NIS 600,000 into an account at First International Bank of Israel in order to reduce Shamir's debts to the bank and preventing the monies from being transferred to the trustee.

According to the employees, there were no liens on this money and therefore it could have been used to pay salaries. They are demanding that the court instruct the bank to transfer this money to the trustee.

Judge Alshech had not issued a response by the time the newspaper went to press.

On Sunday, Shamir trustees Binayahu Lovell and Eliezer Shefler published a tender for the sale of the company, stipulating a Thursday deadline. The plan is apparently to decide on the winning bid on Friday in order to get Shamir's production lines back in operation as quickly as possible.

Industry observers say the trustees peddled their wares last week to the Central Bottling Company (Coca-Cola Israel). Company officials declined to comment.

Another name that has come up as a potential purchaser is Miki Food Industries, a rival producer of hummus and other salads.

Tnuva has also been mentioned by individuals close to the tender, but the kibbutz cooperative - which distributes Shamir's products and loaned the company NIS 5 million - has denied plans to buy Shamir.