Sodastream dispute sees 60 Palestinian workers dismissed

20 July 2014, via WAC-MAAN

Soda Stream in the occupied West Bank fired 60 Palestinian employees in an act of collective punishment

WAC-MAAN has written an urgent letter to SodaStream CEO, Mr. Daniel Birnbaum, demanding immediate return of the employees to their posts!

The SodaStream factory at the Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim in the occupied West Bank employs hundreds of Palestinians. In early July it fired 60 of them, all from the night-shift. The employees have told WAC-MAAN that the lay-offs followed an argument on Wednesday, July 2, after they realized that the company had supplied insufficient food for the breaking of the Ramadan fast. The company allows only kosher food on its premises, so employees are not permitted to bring their own to work. Sixty were left hungry after 16 hours of fasting.

The night-shift workers approached management’s representatives, saying that without something to eat they would find it hard to continue. They added that operating large machinery while hungry and weak could be a safety risk.

An executive accused the employees of causing superfluous conflict on a day of tension (it was the day of the funeral of three Israeli youths who had been kidnapped and murdered). The employees flatly denied the charge, saying that they simply wanted the matter solved so that they could safely continue working. Various solutions were discussed. Eventually an executive canceled their shift and sent them home, adding that the problem would be solved the next day.

The following morning at 10:00, the 60 night-shift workers received phone calls from an executive named Ilan, who informed them that management had decided to fire them. They were told to arrive at the plant on Sunday, July 6, in order to return their employee cards and uniforms. When they came, they were received with hostility, and the company refused to let them collect their personal belongings. After finally being allowed to enter the plant – under escort, as if they were dangerous criminals – they discovered that their personal lockers had been opened in a way that violated their privacy. The company later issued a statement saying that the shift workers had behaved violently.

SodaStream management added insult to injury when, on July 6, it issued letters firing the workers, claiming that it had held the legally required hearings by phone. The company insisted that the employees had caused damage to the workplace and therefore were not entitled to severance pay. It must be noted that some of the dismissed workers had been employed by SodaStream for years, and none of them had ever been issued a warning concerning disciplinary problems or any other issue related to their work.

The company’s step is a belligerent act, aiming to terrorize the workers and prevent them from demanding their basic rights. It should be noted that Soda Stream’s CEO, Mr. Daniel Birnbaum, has appeared in the media in recent months portraying SodaStream’s plant at Mishor Adumim as an oasis of co-existence between the two peoples.

His company’s treatment of the 60 Palestinian workers is a test of his real intentions. WAC-MAAN will follow up on this struggle. If the company refuses to re-admit the workers, we shall fight with these brave workers the injustice both legally and in the public arena.

For further details and arrangement of interviews with the workers, call: Yoav Tamir, WAC-MAAN Jerusalem coordinator, Tel: (+972) 050-7859475

Article source: WAC-MAAN

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21 July 2014, via Haaretz

Ramadan dispute leads to SodaStream dismissals
Company denies it fired Muslim workers who complained about receiving insufficient food to break the Ramadan fast.

SodaStream, which makes soda machines for home use, fired 60 Palestinian workers this month from its plant in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim over a dispute about the food they received during their shifts to break the day-long fast during the month of Ramadan.

WAC-MAAN, the trade union representing the plant’s Palestinian workers, said that in early July workers on the evening shift complained that the food they received was insufficient.

“Sixty workers, who are prohibited from bringing food from home because of Jewish dietary laws, found themselves without enough food after the 16-hour fast,” Maan’s Jerusalem coordinator, Erez Wagner, said.

Wagner said the workers approached management and explained that it would be difficult for them to work through the night without sufficient food, noting that it was dangerous for them to work the big machines when they were both hungry and tired.

According to Wagner, one executive accused the workers of deliberately provoking confrontation, an accusation the workers denied.

In the end, the shift manager sent the workers home, saying he was canceling the night shift that day and promising that the problem would be resolved the next day.

“The next day, all the night-shift workers received termination notices. They were instructed to return their employee IDs and were treated with hostility; they weren’t allowed to collect their personal belongings,” Wagner said.

“SodaStream’s CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, likes to present his company as an oasis of coexistence between [Jews and Arabs], but in reality he acts totally differently.”

SodaStream said in a statement that the workers were dismissed because they called a wildcat strike, without genuine cause.

A figure in the company, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was regrettable that WAC-MAAN went to the media before checking the facts.

“The dismissal process was conducted properly, the workers were given a hearing and they were not denied their severance payments,” the source said.

Article source: Haaretz

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