Bread and Work: A Weekly Column
"In light of the company's financial difficulties . . . we are sorry to inform you of your dismissal; to take affect immediately. Unfortunately, the company has no means with which to pay you the monies to which you are entitled, including your final salary and any other monies owed you."
This is the text of letters received by 50 employees of the Jaffa Gold jewelry company in the town of Ofakim. The employees were also informed that the company had requested that Attorney Yair Chazan help them appeal to the National Insurance Institute for receipt of their final salary.
However, the fired employees found out soon enough that Chazan, a former mayor of Ofakim, is demanding NIS 580 [$165] from each person, who will then receive only 75% of the salary due to him. Some of the employees appealed to the Histadrut, of which they are members, while others appealed to YEDID in Ofakim.
One of the appellants, Yaacov Mortov, had worked for four years as a guard in the company. Like most of the employees, he earned minimum wage. This is not the first time that Mortov has faced a similar situation. Before he received public housing in Ofakim and moved there in 2003, he was employed as a guard in the center of the country. One of the companies he worked in suddenly closed, and although it owed its previous workers money, it opened a new company under a different name. Mortov is worried that Yossi Marko, the owner of Jaffa Gold, has the same thing in mind. "I go feed the dogs in the company every day, even though they are not paying me," he says. "The workers treat the dogs better than the owner treats his workers."
Marko says that he had no choice. Ten years ago, he moved his company form Holon to Ofakim because of benefits he received from the State. (At the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment they say that he received NIS 2 million.) At its height, the business employed 200 Ofakim residents and was the second largest private employer in the city. However, business has been going sour for the past year and a half, he says. Marko markets all of his line of jewelry to the United States. "During a recession, jewelry is the first thing people stop buying," he says. The recession, the weak dollar, the rising prices of gold, the raise in the minimum wage were all deciding factors. "I lost a tremendous amount of money," he notes. Marko denies rumors that he plans to move his business to South Africa. He had thought about it, he says, but decided against it. "Meanwhile, I am licking my wounds. I have no energy left," he says.
Mortov has no energy left either. "To lose a job in Ofakim is not like losing a job in Beer Sheva or Tel Aviv," he says. "I am 51 years old - too old to find a job here. Maybe I will go to the Knesset and beg," he says.