Massive layoffs by pharmaceutical giant Teva prompt nation-wide strike

The Histadrut labor federation held a nation-wide strike Sunday morning to protest the layoff of 1,750 workers in Israel and 14,000 globally by beleaguered pharmaceutical giant Teva.

By: TPS 

Hundreds of Teva employees blocked major traffic arteries in Jerusalem Sunday morning. Others barricaded themselves inside a factory in the capital as the Histadrut Labor Federation held a nation-wide solidarity strike to protest the beleaguered pharmaceuticals giant’s plan to lay off more than 1,700 workers around the country.

The strike prevented flight departures, closed banks and government offices and forced hospitals to scale back services.

In a dramatic statement released Thursday, Teva, the world’s largest producer of generic drugs, said it would lay off 1,750 workers in Israel and close at least one local factory as part of what the company called a “comprehensive restructuring plan to significantly reduce its cost base, unify and simplify its organization and improve business performance, profitability, cash flow generation and productivity.”

The restructuring plan calls for a 25 percent reduction of Teva’s global workforce, or about 14,000 jobs. The majority of the reductions are expected to occur in 2018, with most of the affected employees being notified within the next three months.

In response, the Histadrut called a half-day general strike which on Sunday saw Ben Gurion Airport shut down with flights only scheduled to resume at 14:30. Dozens of other sectors were also affected, including government offices, local municipalities, ports, the Israel Electric Corporation, universities, hospitals and medical clinics.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday morning that he would meet later in the week with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, Minister of the Economy Eli Cohen and Teva CEO Kåre Schultz to discuss the layoffs.

“I spoke with him (Schultz) last week and told him that our first goal was to minimize layoffs,” Netanyahu said.”The second thing is that we want to do everything we can to prevent the closure of factories in Jerusalem. And the third thing is that we want to ensure that Teva remains in Israel. Teva has thousands of employees, it was founded as an Israeli company and we want it to remain an Israeli company. We will use all the means at our disposal to make sure we achieve these goals.”