What will happen to the future of workers in the petrochemical industry in Haifa Bay?

More than two months ago, the CEOs’ Committee recommended that Haifa Bay be evacuated from the petrochemical industry within a decade. Since then, the government has changed, and the person who chaired the committee, the chairman of the National Council of Economics, Prof. Avi Simhon, has announced his resignation. Despite this, it seems that even after the exchange of players, the future of Haifa Bay is not expected to fall off the agenda, and the guidelines of the new government state that it will “work to evacuate the polluting factories from Haifa Bay.”

The CEOs’ detailed report, which spans more than 80 pages, covers many aspects related to the evacuation of the area in question, but the human capital issue of the three factories – Bazan, Carmel Olefins and Gadiv – is hardly mentioned. Thousands of workers are directly employed in the factories. The employment food chain in the region reaches tens of thousands of employed people whose livelihoods could be harmed if the factories were closed, so even those who put public health in front of their eyes – a critical consideration in themselves – can not deny the employment crisis that arises if the decision is implemented orally.

Maariv, in collaboration with the Bazan Group, recently held a roundtable discussion on the issue of possible employment for the factory workers, should the government adopt the position paper of the CEOs and decide to close them.

The discussion, moderated by the author, was attended by: Employment Service CEO Rami Graur, Chief Economist and Partner at the BDO consulting firm Chen Herzog, VP of Policy and Economics at the Adam Blumenberg Federation and Director of the Chemical Industries Association of the Nir Kantor Manufacturers Association.

Chen Herzog, who advises the Manufacturers’ Association, presented the implications of the closure on the employment market: “Our research shows that the direct and indirect contribution of the petrochemical industry in Haifa Bay to employment amounts to about 25,000 jobs. There are three employment circles here. The direct circle of workers in factories. 3,000 workers. The second circle includes all the subcontractors and suppliers who provide services to the petrochemical industry. For example, movers, construction and maintenance workers and other contractor workers – about 11,500 employed. The third circle summarizes the consumption impact of the petrochemical industry workers who drive the economy through their consumption. It reaches about 25,000 employed people. “

“The average age of the group’s workers is over 50. Engineers, engineers and technicians specializing in the petrochemical industry, who do not have many other alternatives,” he said.

Rami Graur, CEO of the Employment Service: “Today the government policy is not to send workers out for early retirement. We want them in the job market. If there are workers who decide they do not want to continue working and they are not financially settled, that is fine, but we should at least give them the opportunity to integrate into the employment market. “Excluding 1,000 employees aged 50 and over for early retirement is not a positive thing.”

Haifa Bay Refineries (Photo: Meir Vaknin, Flash 90)

From the north evil will open

Grauer continued: “It is our duty to help any enterprise that encounters difficulties, whether as a result of a government decision or due to its business situation. We are committed to helping those workers. Our policy is not to wait for job seekers to come and reach us, but to start acting in a timely manner. “The transition of workers as much as possible. This is one of the biggest crises in human life, when he is left without a job.”

Graur added that the geographical location of the Zen factories could add to the difficulty of integrating workers into the employment market: “Currently, there are quite a few unemployed in the Northern District, some without entitlement to unemployment benefits. Because the closure will take many more years, we have plenty of time to prepare for this event. From two directions – check if there are vacancies that can suit those employees and what to do with the space that will be vacated.It will be possible to make professional transfers for at least some of the employees.

“The state needs to see how these families can be helped to make a difference – not just in terms of economic security, but how to put workers in the labor force. This is the look that should be. Once the final decision is made to close the shelter, plan what to do with workers, how to help “To them, you have to explain to them, talk to them. These people are already in tension.”

Adam Blumenberg, VP of Policy and Economics at the Histadrut, commented on the recommendations of the Executive Committee, saying: “First of all, the quality of the implementation of the report of the National Economic Council and the timing of the report – end of April – end of previous government and strong opposition of the Ministry of Economy , Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Energy and RMI.

Blumenberg further noted that the Ministries of Economy, Energy and Finance have issued a specific reference to the issue of employment and wrote that the program does not improve the employment situation. “The budget department pointed to a lack of budgeting of the plan. The Department of Energy also issued a reference saying the impact on pollution is relatively negligible. The recommendation is to develop the bay based on existing infrastructure and existing plants and industry as well as introduce modern air pollution reduction tools.”

Blumenberg also referred to KPMG’s report prepared for RMI, according to which the conversion of land in Zen to real estate, commercial and industrial areas will lead to an addition of 140,000 jobs. “At the moment, the state does not know how to deal with the existing unemployed and does not know how to conduct placement operations on such a scale. And if it could do so, why is the unemployment rate so high?”

Occupational alternative

Is there an employment alternative for Zen workers if the factories close?
Nir Kantor, director of the Chemical Industries Association of the Manufacturers’ Association: “Most workers will want to stay in the Gulf area, where they live with their families. In this area they do not have many employment opportunities where they can continue to earn the same level – a salary of about 19,000 shekels gross on average. Except for high-tech, it’s not in the north. I do not see these people, who have been working in the industry for 20-30 years, blue-collar, making a switch to high-tech to get such salaries. That means they can be mall guards or professions of this kind tomorrow. very hard”.

“The chemical industry in Israel is developing slowly and little. We have the Neot Hovav area, the Dead Sea area and Mishor Rotem – these are areas with this type of industry. Theoretically, if there are workers from Bazan who want to move there, it may be possible. But in my estimation, most workers do not They will be able to find work in a similar industry in other places in the country. “

During the hearing, Cantor explained why, in his view, the relocation of the factories to the south was not possible. “These are three factories that are connected to each other through infrastructure systems, the production process that has become a complete symbiosis between the companies. Waste from one process has become the raw material of another process and so on. It is built in such a way that if one plant is shut down – everyone is shut down. “The ports, otherwise it is not worth it. In the Ashdod area there is already another competing plant, I do not see a refinery plant being set up there. This means that Zen has closed.”

So what do you think should be done?
Cantor stressed that the Corona period greatly highlighted Israel’s need for independence: “During the Corona period we needed disinfectants and went to search the world. What will happen when there is another global crisis and we close the refineries? In times of crisis every country will want to keep its diesel, gasoline and jet fuel. “Then our military planes will not be able to fly either.”

According to him, since the privatization of Bazan in 2007, the company has invested huge sums to reduce pollutant emissions. The entire petrochemical industry in Haifa Bay is responsible for only 10% of the air pollution in the Gulf, and the rest comes from transportation. “We are paying for the image of the past.

Today the industry there is much cleaner. It is true that there is a higher morbidity in the Haifa area, but it also stems from transportation. Zen develops new, cleaner products. One should take the company, with its good foundation and its knowledge, and with it develop the future generation. We should not gamble when they will stop using fossil fuels, the country has goals, but it does not meet them. “

Herzog: “Sustainable growth of the economy should take advantage of all the relative advantages of the economy, and if we look at the Israeli economy, in this area of ​​the petrochemical industry we have a clear relative advantage. It is a capital-rich industry, knowledge-rich industry and energy – and we also have resources So when asked what areas should be developed in the Israeli economy, then obviously we want high-tech and advanced technology, but they can not be the only basis for the growth of the Israeli economy. We need more anchors. When the state develops an industry that has a relative advantage, the state The workers also benefit and benefit – the level of wages in the chemical industry in Haifa is 2.2 times higher than the average wage in the economy. “

Herzog added: “The transition to a low-carbon economy is a welcome blessing. But the question the state needs to ask itself is how to do this process while encouraging growth and employment. Closing factories without producing an employment alternative does not produce growth or solve the environmental problem.

“Why? Because we continued to consume the polluting fuels and moved the refinery to China and India, where production processes are probably much less considerate of the environmental aspects. We did not really worry about the planet, but exacerbated the environmental damage. The climate problem is global, one cannot close eyes and say others produce. For us and we will feel clean. “

A world journey

Herzog concluded by looking at Europe: “Following the Corona crisis, Europe has given budgets to develop clean processes, to produce a hydrogen economy – a local industry that adapts itself to the future world. That’s what we need, too. We also need to move to clean, electric transport. The real solution to the environmental problem. “

Histadrut representative Blumenberg said the government should develop a practice of dialogue with workers’ organizations when making such decisions, which already exists in the United States and the European Union. “US President Joe Biden said his government does not promote processes alone, but sits with workers at tables. Round and produces solutions together. “

According to him, even in the case of Zen, the solution should be a transformation into a more modern and greener industry. “We have very talented human capital, some with 20-30 years of experience. People who know the profession and want to continue learning. The International Labor Organization has issued a convention for the integration of workers and employers together with the state in order to make such enterprises more modern – 46 countries signed. “Israel decided at the end of the previous government to publish a 82-page report, and it has half a recommendation regarding the integration of workers. 82 pages and the treatment of workers amounts to half a sentence.”

Asked about the compensation policy, a representative of the Histadrut Blumenberg, representing Bazan employees, said: “Bazan should not close down and should continue to make a sustainable plan that brings all the players together, and does not want a unilateral report on the hallucinatory timing.” I believe that the new government, and especially the Minister of Finance, has understood the importance of cooperating and creating roundtables with workers ‘and employers’ organizations, and this is an opportunity to do joint processes.

The fact that I will say that they will demand increased compensation and a bridging pension is good and nice, but that is not our goal. Workers want employment, the issue of compensation is made when there is a unilateral and uncomplicated process. In places where integrated processes are produced, a safety net and training and occupational continuity are produced, there are fewer labor disputes and there are fewer burnt tires. Bottom line, I do not believe that Zen will be shut down. “

Source: Maariv.co.il – כלכלה בארץ by www.maariv.co.il.

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