"We have heard a rumor that the two people in charge of cleaning our laboratory are to be moved to another location," said an email sent to the management of Teva last week by one of the employees. "These are highly valued employees, and it would be a shame to lose them.”

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“They do their job very well, with a pleasant attitude, and they want to do it," wrote another employee. 

"I can not imagine the floor without S. She is available for any question and always knows where everything is," another email read.

Thus, in dozens of emails sent to the company's management, Teva employees protested the decision to lay off 13 cleaning workers, who are employed by Teva through a contractor. 

Teva is one of Israel’s largest pharmaceutical companies, headquartered in Petach Tikvah but operating globally.

Teva company headquarters in Petach Tikvah. (Photo: Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

"These are workers with extensive experience in this field,” read another email. “They are responsible, hardworking, and knowledgeable about chemicals and safety requirements. In our field, it is very important that work is carried out with a high amount of toxic organic solvents. This is not only hard physical work, but it’s also very important in terms of safety and the environment."

Although cleaning staff are often considered disposable, Teva workers did not remain indifferent to their colleagues, according to the chairman of the Teva’s workers union Eliran Kozlik, who organized the campaign. 

"These are hard-working people, who are the age of our parents. Some have been working here for over a decade. When they received the hearing letters before dismissal, their world was destroyed,” Kozlik said.

A cleaning worker (not from Teva). (Photo: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

"Teva employees were willing to express solidarity with these workers, it makes me proud," Kozlik said. "I always told the workers, 'There are no disposable workers at Teva.'"

According to Kozlik, the union has now presented the management with an alternative plan to save on expenses without firing workers.

"Firing cleaning workers is the easy solution. We have presented management with a plan that would save millions of dollars on electricity. We could stop office renovations and replace vehicles,” Kozlik said. “Efficiency is not a bad word, and all of us need to lead by example. We hope for real cooperation between management and employees.”

"These are people who are responsible for cleaning in our laboratories and production complexes. Firing them may have far-reaching implications that will also affect factory workers, certainly in a time of global pandemic, and particularly in a pharmaceutical company," he continued.

The chairman of the Histadrut's Guard and Cleaning Workers' Union, Yossi Barbie, also joined the Teva workers’ action. 

It seems that Teva management have received the message and for now, the firings has been averted. Following a request from the chairman of the Food and Pharmaceutical Workers Union, Eliezer Blue, the contractor was instructed by Teva's management to stop the firing procedures. 

Next week, there will be a meeting to discuss the issue, in which the union, workers' committee, and plant management will participate.