800 Israeli Layoffs as Hizbullah-Threatened Ammonia Tank Closes

Around 800 employees will be laid off in the court-ordered closure of a major Israeli ammonia storage facility previously threatened by Hizbullah, the owners announced Wednesday.

The head of U.S.-owned Haifa Chemicals, Jules Trump, told Israeli army radio the company was dismissing 800 workers in two plants that processed the ammonia.

“We have lost hundreds of millions of shekels (tens of millions of dollars) in recent months because, contrary to the promises of the government, there is no alternative solution on the horizon,” he said.

The Israeli Supreme Court last week confirmed a ruling ordering the closure of the 12,000-ton facility located in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, giving the company until September 18 to empty it completely.

The ruling brought to an end a years-long legal battle over the site.

Residents and environmentalists had been warning of the risks of an accident or explosion at the container in the densely populated Mediterranean port city.

Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in 2016 that a missile strike on the tank would have the effect of a “nuclear bomb,” increasing calls for its closure.

Nasrallah, whose group targeted the Haifa area in a 2006 war with Israel, echoed warnings from experts and activists cited in Israeli media that “tens of thousands of people” would be killed in case the container was struck.

Ammonia, used in fertilizers, is poisonous to humans.

Haifa Chemicals sells some of the ammonia that the group imports to chemical plants, weapons companies and wastewater treatment plants.
Agence France Presse
Haifa Chemicals says it is closing business

After failure to find alternative for ammonia vat and being ordered to be shut down earlier this year, Haifa Chemicals is forced to shut down operations.
Reuters|Published: 02.08.17

Haifa Chemicals said on Wednesday it was closing shop and letting go of its 800 employees after failing to find a reasonable alternative to a large ammonia tank it needs to function which was ordered to be shut down earlier this year.

An Israeli court in February ordered the company to shut down the country’s largest ammonia tank—which has been a point of contention for years—with residents and environmental groups warning it is a major health hazard.

“Haifa Chemicals management decided to close the company and is forced to fire all its employees,” it said in a statement.

The colossal, circular vat is located in the northern port of Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, and can hold 12,000 tons of ammonia, which is used in products such as fertilizer and explosives.

The government, looking to remove hazardous materials from the heavily populated area, has for more than a decade been looking for alternatives to the Haifa plant, including building a new one in the middle of the desert. It has made little progress.

Haifa Chemicals is owned by a US holding company Trance Resource Inc. (TRI), in turn controlled by Florida-based Trump Group. The Trump Group has no connection to US President Donald Trump.,7340,L-4997683,00.html

Haifa Chemicals workers protest plant’s closure
With court-order’s closure entailing layoff of 800 employees, enraged workers block roads, light fires outside factory premises, call on Environmental Protection Min. Elkin to intervene; workers explain fear of inability to support families.
Ilana Curiel|Published: 02.08.17

The announcement came after authorities failed to find a reasonable alternative to replace a large ammonia tank required by the company to function which was ordered to be shut down earlier this year.

The colossal, circular vat is located in the northern port of Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, and can hold 12,000 tons of ammonia, which is used in products such as fertilizer and explosives.

An Israeli court in February ordered the company to shut down the ammonia tank—the largest in the country—which has been a point of contention for years, with residents and environmental groups warning it is a major health hazard.

“Haifa Chemicals management decided to close the company and is forced to fire all its employees,” the company said in a statement.

The workers blocked off roads leading to the plant and the Histadrut has vowed to continue the protest until a solution is found to the crisis.

In addition to blocking off the roads near the plant, the enraged workers, fearing for their livelihoods, set tyres alight and waved placards calling on Minister of Environmental Protection Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), whom they consider primarily responsible for their plight, to immediately intervene and slam the breaks on the expected redundancies.

By Wednesday morning, dozens of Haifa Chemicals workers had assembled outside the plant’s premises, lighting fires and demanding the resignations of the company’s CEO Nadav Shachar and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Chairman of the Southern Workers’ Committee Yehuda Peres slammed the closure, arguing that it constituted “the targeted destruction of the periphery.”

“We didn’t give up over the last five months and I don’t intend to give up now,” he stated defiantly. “Today, the struggle entered a new phase and anyone who wants to move us will have to do so by force.”

Vowing to keep the protest up at full throttle until a “real solution” had been found, Peres went on to say that the affair could not go on at the expense of the workers’ livelihoods and their children.

Aviram Elmakias, 28 from Dimona has particular cause to be concerned by the mass layoffs since he and his wife are expecting a baby in the near future. With Aviram being the sole breadwinner of the family, he explained why he is so overwhelmed by a sense of trepidation.

“The significance of losing work is hard. Yes, I am young but to have to go out and look for work when my wife may give birth any minute is difficult,” he said.

“We are in a state of total uncertainty and are disheartened by the situation. What happens in the factory seriously affects my home, and my wife is under serious stress. It isn’t nice to bring a child into the world this way. We don’t even know who to blame.”

With the closure, Eli Ben Hamo, 44 is another worker being placed under similar strain. Married with three children, Hamo has worked for the company for more than five years.

“It is awful when you know you need to get to your workplace to receive a notice that the factory is being closed. Yesterday we still had hope, we thought there would be positive results and that they had found a solution for us, but there’s nothing,” he lamented.

Unlike Elmakias however, Hamo knew who he was blaming for the crisis. “I think that if the minister of environmental protection is convinced and decides, it will be possible to find a solution. Everything is in his hands. We are for the closure of the ammonia tank, but there are alternatives. No one is taking responsibility.”,7340,L-4997976,00.html
Jerusalem Post

Haifa Chemicals to close down two plants, layoff 800 workers

Haifa Chemicals is owned by the American holding company Trance Resource Inc, which is controlled by the Trump Group, where Jules Trump serves as chairman of the board.
As the final date for emptying Israel’s disputed ammonia storage tank draws near, Haifa Chemicals has notified some 800 employees of intentions to shut down two factories and eliminate their jobs.

The company will be closing its plants in both the North and the South, and dismissing all employees that work at these facilities in the process, a statement from Haifa Chemicals said on Wednesday. The move occurred after months of paying the workers while the company’s factories were not functioning, according to a letter sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by the firm’s management.

“We made the decision – not a simple one, but according to Jewish moral values and based on the fact that the government would work diligently and in good faith to advance a resolution – to continue employing all of our workers, even though we did not have work for them, since the factory was shut down,” Jules Trump, controlling shareholder of Haifa Chemicals, wrote to Netanyahu. “Thus, we absorbed losses of tens of millions of shekels every month.”

The factories have not been able to operate since April, due to a government prohibition on refilling the company’s 12,000-ton ammonia processing and storage facility, a second letter sent to northern employees explained.

The tank in question, which stores all of the ammonia imported by Israel, has long been dubbed by environmentalists as a “ticking time bomb” and has been subject to legal battles for years. The facility began to garner international attention last year, when Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack it.

This spring, the High Court of Justice initially ruled that the tank must be emptied entirely by April – a deadline that was eventually extended to July 31, and then to September 18, following a series of appeals. Yet despite that delay, Haifa Chemicals has not been allowed to refill the tank with more ammonia during this waiting period.

Haifa Chemicals is owned by the American holding company Trance Resource Inc., which is controlled by the Trump Group, where Jules Trump serves as chairman of the board. A Jewish-American businessman born in South Africa, Trump has no relation to US President Donald Trump.

Already after receiving word about the company’s lay-off intentions on Tuesday evening, Haifa Chemicals employees slammed the Trump family for handling the situation poorly.

Over the past few months, members of the workers committee met with the owners twice, requesting that the managers promise to maintain their terms of employment even after the ammonia crisis was resolved, a spokesman for the workers said. Nonetheless, they received no response from the Trumps, the spokesman added.

“This is a scandalous response by management, which is continuing to intimidate workers,” said Eli Elbaz, chairman of the Haifa Chemicals North workers committee.

While four years have passed since the government alerted Haifa Chemicals about the need to find alternative locations for the ammonia tank, the company has done nothing, the workers committee stressed. The employees were referring to a 2013 cabinet decision that called for the eventual shutdown of the tank, as well as the transfer of the facility to a much less populated location in the Negev.

Emphasizing that the company also already knew in March that the tank would soon be shut down entirely, the workers accused the management of “making cynical use of 1,500 employees and their families in the North and South.”

“The attempt to present the ammonia crisis as a complicated battle that has no guilty parties is wrong,” added Eli Lotati, a committee member. “The entire time, there has been only one body that bears responsibility – the company’s management.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Histadrut labor federation chairman Avi Nissenkorn warned that if no solution is found on the Haifa Chemicals matter, solidarity strikes would take place throughout the country next Tuesday.

“Enough with the procrastination and the chatter and enough with the show of foolishness connected with the handling of Haifa Chemicals,” Nissenkorn said. “Hundreds of families and the entire Israeli economy are paying a heavy price. I expect the parties, including representatives of the government and the owners of the company, to find an immediate solution. The Histadrut will extend its hand to any possibility that will save the workers’ livelihood. If no solution is found, on Tuesday there will be a strike throughout the South and additional solidarity strikes across the country.”

In response to the employee accusations, Trump told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday evening that the fault lies with the government, rather than with the company’s management.

“For the past nine months we’ve been trying to get an answer from the government, how we’re going to get ammonia,” Trump said. “This fight is not about a tank; it’s not about the tank in Haifa Bay. The issue is we want continuity of ammonia.”

Trump recalled the 2013 decision to move the ammonia tank to the Negev, pointing out that the government issued tender documents in 2015 for the construction of that factory. Yet in November 2016, the Environmental Protection Ministry announced that the tendering process for that step failed.

Over the past nine months, Trump said, the government has made a number of promises regarding ammonia supply and has failed to follow through, despite the fact that Haifa Chemicals offered 12 different alternative solutions, such as the use of small onshore “Isotanks” for an interim period.

“We cannot even go to the bathroom without the approval of the Environment [Ministry],” Trump said. “My boss is the Environment [Ministry]. For the employees to be saying that we have responsibility is just a figment of their imagination.”

To continue operating its plants, Haifa Chemicals needed a government commitment to maintain continuity of supply, so that the company’s customers would not shift their business to competitors, he explained. At this point, Trump said, he does not envision a situation in which the 800 employees could be rehired.

“It’s hard to put the genie back in the bottle,” he added. “For me, I’m heartbroken, and it’s a very upsetting situation.”