No one doubts that Bank Hapoalim's dismissal of 900 workers has put serious pressure on Leumi. Headlines for last few weeks gave the impression that Leumi was streamlining, cutting back, freezing wages and making a genuine effort to save costs.
But things aren't always as they appear. Leumi's management is not ruling out any options, and the outcome of its streamlining is as yet unclear.
Leumi has said it intends to offer 500 employees voluntary-retirement packages totaling NIS 300-400 million, but no such plan has been published. Apparently, in Leumi's eyes, an expense of this magnitude does not merit a note to the stock exchange - Hapoalim gave such notice. But there is no doubt it calls for some systematic PR, from which the bank has also refrained.
Leumi tells the press that no collective raises will be paid, while employees are promised selective 5 percent raises that would cost the bank millions. This Jekyll & Hyde policy raises the question of why Leumi chooses not to explain its plan, retirement packages or wage raises. Apparently, at this point the bank is opting for the type of PR that whitewashes the fact that the "streamlining" is really minuscule.
Another interpretation is that the bank management is happy with the grief that Leumi's union chief, Louis Roth, and his friends from the Histadrut are meting out to its competitor Bank Hapoalim. If this is so, Leumi's calm cannot be expected to last long, because once the election campaign of Histadrut chair Amir Peretz, MK, is over, Leumi bank, which aspires be the leader in the sector, will have no choice but to stop playing its two-faced game.
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