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As far as Bank Hapoalim is concerned, the 800 workers it fired in 2003 can't get stock options and other perks agreed on the following year.

"Bank Hapoalim workers dismissed in early 2003 are not entitled to benefit from the bank's stock options program or the bonus agreed upon in March 2004," states the declaration that Bank Hapoalim's human resources department delivered to the court on Sunday.

The case is being heard by Judge Sigal Davidov Motola. Five hundred of the roughly 800 workers that Bank Hapoalim laid off in early 2003 are suing to receive stock options and a bonus that would be worth half a month's salary.

They may possibly be motivated by the fact that Bank Leumi agreed to give stock options to 150 people that it had previously been its workers, but had been laid off.

Be that as it may, the precisely 499 former Hapoalimites were countered by the bank's argument, that the stock options and bonuses were anchored in an agreement dating for March 2004, and that the program targets only active, permanent workers who ere employed at the bank when the agreement was signed, or during the previous year.

But the 800 had been fired in February 2003, more than a year before the agreement date.

The dismissed workers make no contribution whatsoever to the bank, Hapoalim argues: they owe no duty to the bank, other than confidentiality, and are not entitled to the perks preserved for current staff.