Ofer Eini and Jeremy Levin
Ofer Eini and Jeremy LevinYoni Kempinski

Teva Pharmaceuticals on Tuesday said it would not back down on its plans to lay off hundreds of employees, but would do so in coordination with the Histadrut Labor Federation.

The company announced last week that it would be carrying out what is being referred to as “an aggressive streamlining move,” with some reports saying it would be laying off 5,000 employees with an estimated 700-800 of them in Israel. The move was met with anger and criticism in Israel, particularly because the company has for years received benefits and tax exemptions from the state.

Speaking on Tuesday evening after meeting for more than five hours with Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini, Teva CEO Jeremy Levin said that “there will be no layoffs without the Histadrut’s agreement.”

Levin stressed that the company will still have to lay off employees but said that no decision has yet been made on how many people will be dismissed and when this would take place.

“These numbers did not come from us,” he said, referring to speculations that the company would lay off 800 employees. “We have not decided on the numbers. We do not know what they will be. There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Eini clarified that "There will be no layoffs in Israel unless we reach an agreement. There will be fair negotiations. I hope that both Teva and its employees will come out stronger.”

Asked about the far-reaching tax benefits that Teva has received over the years, Levin said that "there is no connection between the taxes and the question of how we work with our employees. We are very committed to our employees in Israel, the taxes are a separate issue.”

On Monday, Finance Minister Yair Lapid spoke with Levin and told him that he was dissatisfied with the planned layoffs.

Speaking at the Knesset at the start of its winter session, Lapid said that he had asked Levin to significantly reduce the number of employees who will be dismissed.

He stressed that while it has not yet been decided how many employees will be laid off, Levin had assured him that no significant steps will be taken without involving the Histadrut and the Ministry of Finance.

Bennett Warns Against ‘Harsh Criticism’ of Teva
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, meanwhile, warned on Tuesday against the harsh public criticism being leveled at Teva, saying this criticism could cost Israel a heavy price.

"In recent days there have been a competition over who will criticize the giant companies in Israel more harshly over the tax benefits they have received. This assault on Teva will cause enormous damage,” said Bennett in a video he released. “I understand the implications of the recent developments, and it’s very easy to join the chorus of those criticizing Teva.”

"I spoke last week with the CEO Jeremy Levin to see if we can narrow the scope of the layoffs," added Bennett, who warned, "By using populism we’ll cause very big damage and perhaps gain a few more Knesset seats.”