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article imageStrike over Teva layoffs briefly halts flights at Israel's main airport

By AFP     Dec 17, 2017 in Business

Flights at Israel's main airport were suspended for several hours on Sunday as part of a strike against plans by pharmaceutical giant Teva to shed employees.

The four-hour halt hit international routes at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv from 0600 GMT, but Israeli army radio said services started returning to normal in the early afternoon.

The strike was part of a wave of "solidarity" industrial action called by the Jewish state's powerful Histadrut union, and intended to also target ports, banks, ministries, and other sectors.

Teva, the world's largest producer of generic drugs, will make 1,750 employees redundant in Israel as part of plans to slash 14,000 jobs globally over two years, according to Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn.

The cuts would amount to more than a quarter of the Israeli drugmaker's global workforce of over 55,000, of which fewer than 7,000 work in Israel.

As part of the protest action, Teva employees also demonstrated at company locations around the country, Histadrut said.

Travellers wait during a strike over cuts at pharmaceutical giant Teva at Israel's Ben Gurion A...
Travellers wait during a strike over cuts at pharmaceutical giant Teva at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport on December 17, 2017

Several hundred irate workers gathered outside the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before chanting "this is war, war, war" as they marched through the streets.

They briefly blocked a main road in Jerusalem before heading to the Teva factory, which has been occupied in protest.

At a weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that he is going to meet with Teva's Danish boss Kare Schultz during the coming week.

A statement from his office said Netanyahu was aiming to "reduce the damage to workers, do everything possible to avoid the closure of the factory in Jerusalem, and ensure Teva remained an Israeli firm".

Teva has been saddled with debt after its $40 billion acquisition of the generics arm of rival Allergan last year.

The acquisition has been accompanied by low prices for generics, particularly in the United States, a major market.

Teva expects to save $3 billion by the end of 2019 with the two-year restructuring plan.

According to Histadrut, Teva has received $6.2 billion in tax reductions since 2006.

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