'Solidarity' strike with Teva employees leads to many re-scheduled flights

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The solidarity strike was was called by the powerful Histadrut trade union following an announcement by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries last week that it would slash its work force in Israel by about a quarter as part of a large reorganization plan to save the ailing pharma giant.

Debt-ridden Teva, one of Israel's largest companies and the world's largest generics drugmaker, said last week it would cut its global workforce by more than a quarter, or 14,000 jobs.

Protesters also blocked major roads across the country, including the entrance of Jerusalem, and burned tyres outside many Teva offices. The company plans to begin notifying affected employees over the next 3 months.

The move spelled havoc for Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport on Sunday morning, where 66 flights were re-scheduled to accommodate the strike while three others were canceled, the Israel Airport Authority announced.

Teva employees protesting outside the pharmaceutical giant's plant in Ashdod, December 17, 2017.

Netanyahu told his Cabinet that he planned to meet with Teva's new CEO Kare Schultz, and vowed to do everything possible to minimize the number of lost jobs and to keep the company based in Israel.

"We are fighting for the workers of Teva, to save the industry in Israel and to support blue and white", said Nissenkorn.

Protesters gathered outside the company's offices in Jerusalem, in the coastal cities of Netanya and Ashdod, and in the central Israeli city of Petah Tikva, in demonstrations that coincided with a morning solidarity strike that shuttered Israel's airports, banks, and government offices.

The company has almost $35 billion in debt following its $40 billion acquisition of Allergan's generic drug business Activis past year.

Schultz last week sent Netanyahu a letter apologizing for the layoffs but saying he had no choice.

Teva is expected to provide its 2018 outlook in February, and will give a longer-term strategic plan for the company later that year.

Calling on the government to intervene in the crisis, Nissenkorn noted that "Teva received 22 billion shekel ($6.3 billion) from the state and now it spits in her face - and it will continue to enjoy the same tax benefits on the savings of the layoffs in the years to come!"

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