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Dozens of veteran employees of Bank Hapoalim are preparing to ask the bank for early retirement packages. The request has not been brought before the management yet.

This is a new and unusual request in Israel's banking sector, since so far all early retirement packages were initiated by the employers, not by the employees.

Bank Hapoalim's union chief, Arik Pinto, told Ha'aretz that the employees are seeking early retirement for two reasons: firstly, because they are having difficulties adapting to the new computerized working environment, and secondly because they feel that the recent downturn in the banks' business will prevent the banks from offering them generous deals in the future.

Previous early-retirement packages offered by Bank Hapoalim gave employees up to 275 percent of their severance pay. A similar package was offered before by other banks as well, at the cost of about NIS 650,000 per employee. Thus, the total cost of sending 100 employees on early retirement can reach NIS 60-70 million.

In the last few months, Bank Hapoalim has been offering voluntary early-retirement packages only to headquarters staff. Some 100 employees have accepted the offer.