March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Israel Chemicals Ltd. employees began a strike at a Dead Sea unit of the fertilizer producer to protest a proposed takeover by Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., a union representing workers said.
Hundreds of workers blocked the entrance to the plant and 1,300 downed tools, according to an e-mailed statement from the workers committee at Dead Sea Works Ltd. Union leaders are considering extending the action to other plants run by Tel Aviv-based ICL, the statement shows. ICL said the workers’ conduct was harmful to the unit and its staff and was motivated by unrelated issues including the payment of bonuses.
“The actions today are intended to make it clear to the plant management and to the Israeli government that ICL workers won’t agree to a merger deal between Potash and ICL and will fight this with all their power,” Armond Lankry, chairman of the workers committee, said in the statement.
Potash Corp. is preparing concessions ranging from job guarantees to a local stock-market listing to allay concerns that a deal would be harmful to Israel, a person familiar with the plans said March 14. Israel Chemicals, the nation’s second-largest publicly traded company, has a market value of about 60 billion shekels ($16.3 billion). Potash buying the 86 percent of the company it doesn’t already own would be the largest takeover in the Middle East, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
ICL workers “know well” that only the government can decide on the Potash Corp. transaction, the company said in an e-mailed statement. ICL dropped 0.3 percent to 47.27 shekels by the close in Tel Aviv.
Adding to opposition to the deal, departing Environment Minister Gilad Erdan said the proposed takeover endangers Israel’s economic, social, and environmental interests. Erdan said in a March 16 letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, posted on the ministry website, that he “strongly opposes” it.
“Aside from the short-term economic benefit to the State of Israel from the one-time tax revenue resulting from the sale, no benefit will accrue to the State of Israel from the sale, and instead, it will expose the country to significant economic, social, and environmental dangers,” Erdan wrote in the letter. He will serve as minister of communications and homeland security in the new government, Yisrael Hayom reported today.
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