May 22, 2007
By MATTHEW KRIEGER
As Kassam attacks have forced increasing numbers of factories in the Sderot region to temporarily cut back or completely shut down operations, the heads of the country's manufacturing and labor federations called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the government on Monday to come to their aid much as was done for industrialists in the North during the Second Lebanon War.
"The business sector in Sderot has suffered due to the Kassam attacks over the last few years, but the last couple of months have placed the region's small- and mid-sized businesses in a perilous situation; therefore, I am asking the government to start assisting Sderot's business sector like it helped in the North," Uriel Lynn, chairman of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, wrote in a letter sent to Olmert on Monday.
Shraga Brosh, president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, and Ofer Eini, chairman of the New Histadrut, the country's largest workers' organization" also wrote to the Prime Minister requesting that he construct a compensation package similar to the one drawn up last summer.
In general, employers in Israel must pay employees their full salary, including social benefits, for days they did not work due to a security situation prevailing in their place of work or their place of residence.
Under the war compensation law created on July 31, 2006, during the war in Lebanon, factory owners can choose from one of two forms of compensation packages to help cover these wage costs - one that is based on employee wages or one that is based on the company's monthly income.
The second option presented to manufacturers last summer was one based solely on income - smaller companies were reimbursed up to 75% of their monthly income, with this number decreasing dependent upon the amount a company earned over the course of an average month.
"The situation in Sderot now is similar to what was happening in the North during the war and that is why we are requesting the same compensation package," said Eini. "Workers have no guarantee that their wages will be paid, and now they find themselves not only demoralized because of the security situation, but because of their economic situation as well."
Meanwhile, the Knesset Finance Committee approved for a first reading a bill that will provide government aid to Sderot-region residents while the Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai said on Monday he has signed an agreement with the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee to raise $3m. to be earmarked for small businesses in Sderot.
The Ministry also announced the opening of a hotline (08-626-4794) for business owners in the Sderot region that will be operate from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.