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Israel strikes briefly halt flights at Ben Gurion airport

The strike was part of a mass industrial action called by the Histadrut union. [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 December, 2017

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Flights at Israel's Ben Gurion airport were temporarily suspended on Sunday as part of a strike organised by the powerful Histadrut union to protest mass layoffs by pharmaceutical giant Teva.

Flights at Israel's main Ben Gurion airport were temporarily suspended on Sunday as part of a strike organised by the powerful Histadrut union to protest mass layoffs by pharmaceutical giant Teva.

The four-hour halt hit international routes at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv from 6am GMT, but services were expected to return to normal by the start of the afternoon, airport sources said. 

The strike was part of a wave of "solidarity" industrial action called by the Histadrut union, and intended to also target ports, banks, ministries, and other sectors.

Teva, the world's largest producer of generic drugs, will make 1,750 employees redundant in Israel as part of plans to slash 14,000 jobs globally over two years, according to Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn.

The cuts would amount to more than a quarter of the Israeli drugmaker's global workforce of over 55,000, of which fewer than 7,000 work in Israel.

As part of the protest action, Teva employees also demonstrated at company locations around the country, Histadrut said.

Several hundred workers gathered outside the office of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, before chanting "this is war, war, war" as they marched through the streets. 

They briefly blocked a main road in Jerusalem before heading to the Teva factory, which has been occupied in protest.

At a weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that he is going to meet with Teva's Danish boss Kare Schultz during the coming week.

A statement from his office said Netanyahu was aiming to "reduce the damage to workers, do everything possible to avoid the closure of the factory in Jerusalem, and ensure Teva remained an Israeli firm".

The strike follows weeks of tensions in Tel Aviv.

On Saturday thousands of Israelis marched in central Tel Aviv in what organisers called a "March of Shame" in protest against government corruption.

Teva has been saddled with debt after its $40 billion acquisition of the generics arm of rival Allergan last year.

The acquisition has been accompanied by low prices for generics, particularly in the United States, a major market.

Teva expects to save $3 billion by the end of 2019 with the two-year restructuring plan.

According to Histadrut, Teva has received $6.2 billion in tax reductions since 2006.

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