Israeli multinational pharmaceutical company Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Limited has been under constant scrutiny for the last few weeks over its decision to lay off about 14,000 employees worldwide. Out of these, about 1,700 jobs are from its home country. In tune, the firm has seen massive protests and now, a union has asked the company's workers to go on a strike on Tuesday, December 19.
Hundreds of employees of Teva also blocked the roads leading up to the Finance Ministry office in Jerusalem on Monday when representatives of the firm met ministry officials. After the meeting, Avi Nissenkorn, head of an organisation representing workers ordered that all operations at Teva sites in Israel be suspended on Tuesday.
He also asked the employees to hold protest rallies in front of PM Benjamin Netanyahu's office, reported Reuters. Teva is said to be making this move after a series of failed investments in other countries and employees believe they should not bear the brunt of these failures.
Nissenkorn said "job cuts were a last resort" and asked the government to make sure that workers were not affected and Teva's plants remained in Israel.
The country has been witnessing these protests for a while now, also leading to the closure of the Ben-Gurion airport, banks, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and various ministries. Government officials, as well as the PM, have taken the employees' side and Netanyahu has assured the Teva workers that he would meet Teva CEO Kare Schultz and discuss the matter.
Speaking of the meeting, a government source told Globes that at the meeting, "the Teva CEO's statement about the company's commitment to the State of Israel will be put to the test." He also added that Teva has several plants all over the world including India, Ireland, Germany and more. And if the firm has, in the past, declared its commitment to Israel, it should live up to it.
In the meeting, Netanyahu plans to ask Teva to cut back production in Ireland and shift its focus to Israel. "In Ireland, Teva is not a symbol, but in Israel, it is a symbol, as shown by the fact that the whole country has been up in arms for days and the prime minister is dealing with the matter personally," the source added.
The protests have gained momentum in the last few days and Teva workers have even threatened to blow up the pharmaceutical company's plant in Jerusalem if the organisation sticks to its layoff decision. "Our factory is a ticking bomb, we have a stockpile of explosive and poisonous materials — the whole country should be on alert," Itzik Ben Simon, chairman of the workers union at the Teva tablets factory in Jerusalem, told Hadashot news.
"If the decision is eventually made by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and by the finance minister [to close the factory] we will cross red lines. If they try to save NIS 20 million, the blowing up of the Teva factory will cost around $220 million," he added.