Union threatens strike over Teva layoffs

Oct. 14--Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (NYSE: TEVA; TASE: TEVA) unions are threatening an unlimited strike at the company's plants in Israel, over the planned layoffs. Teva announced that it will fire 5,000 employees worldwide, and media reports claim that it will fire 700-800 employees in Israel.

After Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) Food and Pharmaceutical Union chairman Herzl Yaka called Teva's labor representatives on Thursday, to warn them that the company was about to make a dramatic announcement, "probably layoffs", the union representatives immediately went to Teva's headquarters in Petah Tikva. They thought that there would be discussions about a pay hike; no one imagined that the multinational was announcing global layoffs to flex its muscles against the union representatives who were meeting in Kfar Saba.

"In Petah Tikva, shortly before the company's announcement, something like 30 security guards were waiting to prevent us, heaven forbid, from going up to CEO Jeremy Levin's office," says Teva Tech workers committee chairman Eli Zohar. "Management representatives came down to us and told us that the layoffs would only be in Europe and the US, but then we learned that they were beginning to talk about 700-800 layoffs in Israel. I consider this as childish behavior, and we're not intimidated by it. We're ready for a long strike, we'll raise money to survive, and I hope that the other unions will join Teva Tech's employees.

"We'll eat only bread and we'll drink only water, and we won't let anyone break us," said Zohar. "I told Teva' VP human resources that executive fat, their huge salaries, should first be cut, before they hurt us, the workers. They may consider us, the workers at Ramat Hovav, as little guy, but these little guys make their billions. We'll protect our workers like a lioness protecting her cubs. Some of us have nothing to eat, so we have nothing to lose. If necessary, we'll jump into the flames."

The chairman of the workers committee at Teva' Kfar Saba facility talked about the need to unify the committees for a common struggle. "The committees are now talking together like they never did before. There will be no more divide and rule."

Teva has 7,500 employees in Israel, 80 percent of whom are unionized and employed under collective labor contracts. The Histadrut represents the employees at nine Teva plants and the Israel National Labor Federation represents the employees at two plants. Although Teva has been unionized for a long time, labor sanctions and strikes were rare, at least until 2008, when Teva Tech employees launched disruptions over what they claimed were intolerable differences in their conditions compared with other Teva employees.

Teva has been considered an island of job security, which compensated for relatively low salaries. If the company launches extensive layoffs in Israel, it will cease to be a byword for stability, especially if there are future waves of layoffs, as happened at other companies, such as Comverse Inc. (Nasdaq: CNSI) and ECI Telecom Ltd.

Knesset Finance Committee chairman MK Nissan Slomiansky (Habayit Hayehudi) announced that he will convene the committee for a special discussion on Wednesday to discuss Teva's planned layoffs

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