Teva API plant workers strike over wage gaps

Teva Pharmaceutical CEO Jeremy Levin

About 1,100 workers at a Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) API plant in Southern Israel have gone on strike even as the company is looking to cut jobs to dramatically reduce costs in the next couple of years. The workers at the Teva Tech plant in Neot Hovav say they make roughly a third of what workers in the central part of the country make and don't intend to take it any more.

Avraham Zohar, chairman of the plant's workers committee, told Globes the workers walked out Sunday to protest the big disparities in pay among plants in different regions. He said the company agreed to a 5% pay hike over 5 years for all the plant workers in Israel but did nothing to address large pay discrepancies. Zohar claims workers at the plant in Neot Hovav make an average salary of NIS 4,500 ($1,270) while workers in central Israel earn NIS 13,000 ($3,672).

Zohar said 60% of the workers at his plant earn minimum wage even when they work weekends and holidays. "We won't lend a hand to the perpetuation of these differentials at the company. We cannot survive another year on these salaries."

The company has not commented on the strike, according to Haaretz, which says the plant produces the API for Copaxane. The drug is Teva's best seller, but after a U.S. court invalidated a key patent on the drug in July, it faces generic competition next May instead of November 2015. That is one reason Teva CEO Jeremy Levin is expediting cost reductions. He intends to remove $2 billion in costs, most of it by the end of next year. The majority of those cuts are expected to come from streamlining production and supply chain operations.

The drugmaker last week said it would reconsider the 700 to 800 jobs that would be lost in Israel after Teva unions threatened to strike. Union leaders said they understood the financial situation and would work with the company. Politicians also pointed to the tax incentives the company has received, saying it now owes Israel the jobs in exchange.

- read the Globes story
- here's more from Haaretz (sub. req.)