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Some 40 branches of Israel Discount Bank will be closed today as the bank's workers launch industrial action in protest over the forthcoming privatization of the bank. Among their demands, the workers are insisting that the new private owners be denied the right to sell Discount's assets for at least five years after taking over.

Selected branches of the bank in Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva, Dimona and Beit Shemesh will all close their doors.

Last week, when the bank workers committee was about to declare a countrywide strike, an appeal by chairman of the Histadrut labor federation MK Amir Peretz paid off. The Discount Bank workers committee chair Ricki Bachar called off the general strike at the bank.

The bank's branches were closed Wednesday due to the employees' participation in a workers' general assembly, but following the gathering, and the revised plans, the bank's branches stayed open Thursday. The bank's headquarters, however, were on strike, with the exception of the banking division.

Initially Bachar announced that the industrial action would include the shut down of the bank's central computer, an act calculated to bring the bank to complete stand-still, but he renounced this aim. Israel Discount Bank workers committee is expected to meet again today to decide on further measures. For a long while now the committee has resorted to industrial action as it says talks with M.I. Holdings, which is managing the privatization of the bank on behalf of the state, have broken down.

The points of disagreement are the scale of compensation to be received by the workers, the duration of the bank's employment agreements and the length of the period in which the bank's assets will not be sold following privatization.