ECI Telecom employees have declared a labor dispute, following the merger agreement signed between the Israeli company and the American telecom company Ribbon Communications. ECI Telecom workers gathered on Monday in protest against the managements' refusal to sign the agreements reached with the union in recent weeks.
The company announced its intentions to merge with Ribbon in November. The workers' committee had demanded to take part in the merger negotiations in order to secure employment conditions, but ECI's management refused to negotiate before a deal with Ribbon was signed. After the Histadrut, Israel's largest trade union, approached Ribbon directly, ECI's management agreed to start negotiations on working conditions after the merger.
All three parties – ECI's management, the workers' committee and Ribbon, agreed on several points, including a commitment not to cut any jobs until July. They also agreed that in the case the new management wished to integrate the companies, which would lead to a loss of jobs, the negotiations would be reopened.
But now members of the workers' committee claim that the company's management refused to sign the agreement reached a few weeks ago, claiming that there were "legal issues surrounding the wording." The Histadrut claims that the management has refused to commit to the agreement.
Ofir Levi, head of the ECI workers' committee, stated that: "over the past two months we have done all that we can to avoid unnecessary strikes, and held negotiations out of responsibility for the future of the company. During the negotiations we reached an agreement, but unfortunately when we tried to sign on them we realized that the management had no intention of committing to them. We are aware of the danger to workers caused by mergers with American companies, and are committed to ensure employment security for our workers. ECI has always been a source of pride for Israeli hi-tech, and we won’t allow the workers to be hurt."
ECI was founded as a company with joint Israeli and American ownership in the sixties. The peak of ECI's success was during the nineties, when it employed over 6,000 employees. Today only 800 employees work for the company, which focuses on the telecom industry. Last November, the company was purchased by Ribbon Communications for 32.5 shares, $324 million together with $31 million for the company's real estate.
ECI has said that: "As we have said in the past, ECI is merging with Ribbon. In recent weeks we have negotiated with the Histadrut. Unfortunately, when it came to signing, the workers presented new and unreasonable demands, which we could not accept. We ask the workers to come back to the negotiation table for the good of the company."