Burning tires outside Pri Hagalil factory
Burning tires outside Pri Hagalil factory photo: hamakom.com

Hundreds of people protested vigorously Monday outside a Galilee factory which is on the verge of closure. The entire town where most of the employees live, Hatzor Haglilit, will hold a solidarity strike on Tuesday.

They decided at the last minute to move to more extreme protest actions.

The Pri Hagalil (Galilee Produce) canned goods factory in Hatzor Haglilit is in danger of closing in the near future. On Sunday, Bank Leumi and Bank Discount filed a request with the District Court in Haifa to order the conserves company into receivership. The banks have objected to all the plans that have been presented for dealing with Pri Hagalil's debts.

In response, Pri Hagalil plant workers staged a "warning strike" and demonstration during the day Monday in conjunction with the Histadrut national labor union. Protesters burned tires and blocked the entrance to the Hatzor Haglilit factory, including by welding the gates shut. Trucks and other vehicles could not enter or leave the grounds, and the union held meetings explaining what the employees face.

Initially, the employees intended to merely hold a sit-down strike for several hours, but they decided at the last minute to move to more extreme protest actions. The company reported that a storage facility for 250 palettes of canned corn on the factory grounds suffered significant damage, aside from the lost revenues while the factory was forcibly shut. The police are concerned that the situation may escalate into more serious actions by those threatened with losing their jobs.

The Haifa court is slated to hear the banks' appeal on Tuesday. In an effort to influence those involved in deciding the outcome of the move to receivership, and in solidarity with the striking workers, the town of Hatzor Haglilit will go on strike as well. All schools will be closed in protest against the impending closing of the factory, which employees hundreds of town residents. During the day, no traffic will be allowed to enter or leave, and there will be an organized demonstration at 9:00 a.m. in the central square.

'A War for Our Home'

Residents explained that closing the factory would mean the loss of livelihood for over 400 families in Hatzor Haglilit. Albert Oved, a Pri Hagalil employee, told Israel National News Monday that the factory is actually the sole source of income in town.

"The factory provides livelihood for hundreds of families, among them families with many children that barely get by on their salary. And in addition, they want to close the factory - they'll be closing their lives," Oved said. "I beg and plead that the factory not be closed. It will not be surprising if heads of families start to steal in order to feed their little children. I hope that someone in the government will lend an ear and listen, for the sake of the residents of Hatzor Haglilit - but mostly for the sake of the children who are beneath the poverty line."

Chairman of the Pri Hagalil labor union, Motti Haziza, called the strike and protest actions a "war for our home." He called on the court to reject the Bank Leumi and Bank Discount request. The factory has "a substantial operating profit and there is no reason to go into receivership. The factory has only gotten into trouble due to debts incurred by the parent company, Vita," Haziza claimed.

Haziza pointed out that the factory employs people from the entire region of the Upper Galilee. "The banks must understand," he said, "that they are sitting on a socioeconomic powder keg."