Still Unpaid, Irate IMI Staff Steps Up Protest

Israel Military Industries (IMI) workers' union appealed yesterday to acting Finance Minister Ehud Olmert to help set up a loan for the company that would enable it to survive until the firm recovers and returns to profitability.

The letter to Olmert stated that "a danger to Israel's security had been created due to the failure to pay IMI workers their July salaries and after the company's raw materials for its production factories ran out."

Chair of IMI's retirees' federation, Gideon Ben Yisrael, asked Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz yesterday to intervene in the troubled company's crisis, which has led to the delay of paying July pensions for 1,200 retired employees. "There can be no consenting to IMI retirees who built the company becoming hostages to the company's lack of liquidity," he said.

The federation help a protest meeting with IMI factory workers yesterday. Director of the professionals' union, Tzahi Tabekman, said that work sanctions would be stepped up today since this is the third straight month during which the company's 2,900 workers did not get paid on time.

The federation and IMI union also rejected the company's new recovery plan worked out between IMI chair Ovadia Eli and Finance Ministry officials, which calls for dismissing 500 employees, cutting the remaining workers' pay by 8 percent, and canceling certain pension provisions.

"IMI workers are conceding 11 percent of their monthly salaries according to the company's 2002 recovery plan valid through the end of 2006," said union head Yitzhak Yehuda. "Therefore, we won't agree to additional cuts before that time." He said the workers have a counterproposal based on the merging of IMI with Israel Aircraft Industries and Rafael, Israel Armaments Development Authority.

IMI workers set up a protest tent this week at the government compound in Jerusalem, and have established vigils outside the homes of Finance Ministry Accountant General Yaron Zelekha and the treasury's Budget Director Koby Haber.

"Instead of gimmicks that fail to lead the workers anywhere, the union would be better off signing the recovery plan with management to secure the treasury's aid package," a senior IMI official said.