Workers unions are responding in force to the call of Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar-David to boycott the products of three of the largest importing companies, Schestowitz, Diplomat, and Kimberly Clark, due to their planned price increases. Union heads at Clal Insurance, the Jewish National Fund (KKL), Pelephone, Mega supermarket chains, and ICL chemical manufacturers have already called on their workers to take part in the boycott.

Acceptance constitutes acceptance of the Website Terms of Use

In addition to the boycott, the Histadrut has launched a public protest campaign that includes advertising on billboards, demonstrations and information booths throughout the country, alongside a demand from the government to intervene and reduce the cost of living.

Over the weekend, the Chairman of the Workers' Council of the Bromine Group of ICL, Avner Ben Snior, announced that the boycotted companies' products will not be included in the holiday gift packages for the group's employees.

"We are in a challenging time, and the time has come for the large suppliers who work with us to lend a hand and reduce their profits so that we can work with them and purchase the various products from them," Ben Snior wrote to the approximately 600 workers represented by him.  "We will in no way cooperate with companies that practice lawlessness and are not satisfied with reasonable profitability. Enough of the piggishness."

Yechiel Shemen, Chairman of the Alfa Workers' Union, participates in a Histadrut protest outside the home of Diplomat CEO Noam Weiman (Photo: Nizzan Zvi Cohen)

Ben Snior added that in the coming days, he will contact his colleagues at major unions both at ICL (formerly Israel Chemicals) and at other major companies in the south such as KMG, Adama Makhteshim, Ben Gurion University, and the Soroka Medical Center, calling for action in a similar spirit and to bring about lower prices and a reduction in the cost of living.

Ben Snior also called on the employees to act on a personal level and avoid purchasing products imported by these companies.

The pressure seems to be working. On Monday, Diplomat announced that it had canceled its planned price increases on toiletry products including Pampers, Pantene, Head and Shoulders, Tide, Ariel and Always.

The union chairman of the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet L’Israel, or KKL), Israel Goldstein, addressed the 1,200 employees of the fund in a letter and called on them to take part personally in the consumer boycott led by the Histadrut against the three companies.

"The workers' committee worries every day about how to improve your wages and especially the wages of the disadvantaged workers – now it's your turn to contribute your part to ease the economic expenses of all of us,” Goldstein wrote. “I ask all of you to join the Histadrut's struggle, led by Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar David, to lower the cost of living and to purchase Israeli products with fair prices."

Attached to Goldstein's letter was a list of products imported by the companies that are being boycotted by the Histadrut.

Activists encourage shoppers to participate in the Histadrut's boycott campaign (Photo: Histadrut Spokesperson's Office)

Roni Raz, chairman of the workers' committee at Clal Insurance, which represents over 4,000 workers, clarified that the consumer boycott of the companies' products is only the first step in the Histadrut's plan to fight the cost of living. In an appeal to the workers, Raz wrote: "Expensive in Israel! Expensive in the supermarket, expensive in the dormitories, expensive to buy an apartment."

According to him, the second step is to increase the 2022 budget of “Beyachad Bishvilcha” (Together for You), a Histadrut consumer club providing discounts,  in order to ease the cost of living for Histadrut members.

"In the third stage, we will take to the streets, shut down the economy and shut down the country," Raz declared. "The workers and retirees in Israel will not be destitute!"

"The Histadrut led by Arnon Bar David is doing what the government is not doing, and is working to lower the cost of living," wrote Eyal Eli, chairman of the workers' committee of supermarket chains Mega and Yayanot Beitan to its 3,400 employees, alongside a list of boycotted products sold in the chains' branches.

"I request in every possible way not to buy products from them at all, and to make sure that family members don't buy either. There are many substitutes on the shelves. We the workers will do one side of things – we won’t buy from them when they raise prices while their business results are excellent. They celebrate at the expense of the smaller chains and the public who depend on them to buy products."

Eli added that the chain recently entered into an agreement with the Carrefour import company in order to sell cheaper products, and that the ministries of health, religion and the economy are making excessive demands on the company.

Yehiel Shemen, chairman of the Alfa Workers’ Union, which represents approximately 4,300 Pelephone employees and approximately 1,300 international Bezeq employees, took part in a demonstration held on Friday in front of the home of Diplomat's CEO, Noam Weiman, in Tel Aviv.

Activists encourage shoppers to participate in the Histadrut's boycott campaign (Photo: Histadrut Spokesperson's Office)

"We are waging a grassroots campaign and bringing the fight directly to the tycoons who cause the high cost of living," said Shemen. "We haven't set things off yet, but our workers are thirsty to light up the whole country. With the economic and organizational support of the Histadrut, the workers and the Histadrut – the public will also come."

Shemen made it clear that the workers' committees are also prepared to intensify the struggle and come to demonstrate in front of the homes of additional office holders in companies that raise prices.

"We came to tell the tycoons that we see everything, hear everything and will not tolerate any more. This is only the beginning," Shemen promised.

The chairman of the Histadrut Transportion Workers' Union, Avi Edri, who represents over 30,000 workers, filmed himself while shopping at the supermarket, presenting the boycotted products and the alternatives available on the shelves.

On the morning of August 1, hundreds of workers and members of the Histadrut, activists, employees from Histadrut regional branches, and members of the HaNoar HaOved v’HaLomed youth movement went to dozens of shopping centers throughout the country to encourage shoppers to participate in the Histadrut's boycott. The activists distributed promotional materials, t-shirts and reusable shopping bags to consumers and offered tips on how to find discounted and affordable products.

Histadrut Chairman Arnon Bar-David said in a statement: "This morning, we started a field operation that will help consumers to fight the rise in the cost of living. The struggle will continue and increase in the coming days until the companies in the economy realize that the party is over and it’s time to stop harassing the consumers.

“I am again making it clear to the government that if there are no active steps and actions on the matter, I will call in the institutions of the Histadrut in early September with the aim of declaring a general labor dispute in all sectors of the economy."

This article was translated from Hebrew by Lily Sieradzki.