When Histadrut chairman MK Amir Peretz closed his account in Bank Hapoalim on Sunday to protest the dismissal of 900 workers, he used a check from Bank Otsar Ha-Hayal - a Poalim subsidiary.
"Peretz does not intend to close his account in Bank Otsar Ha-Hayal because labor relations in this bank are all right," a Histadrut spokesman said.
Histadrut is also checking whether the details of how Peretz closed the account was leaked by Hapoalim. "If so, this is a violation of the confidentiality that the bank is obligated to guarantee, and a complaint will be lodged with the police. The bank cannot use inside information as part of a PR campaign against Amir Peretz," the spokesman said.
In a meeting with labor union representatives yesterday in Tel Aviv, Peretz called on unions to close their accounts in Hapoalim. Histadrut has hired the services of the accounting firm of Ziv & Haft to advise unions that withdraw their money from Hapoalim on a suitable alternative for them. The Histadrut will also provide legal advice to such unions. "You are entitled to say you are not ready to let your own money be used to hone the sword that is being raised against you," Peretz said.
However, no decision was made at the meeting regarding closing accounts in Bank Hapoalim. Histadrut sources said that most unions will probably not respond to Peretz's call, primarily because such withdrawals might lead to lawsuits by Hapoalim. Furthermore, the dismissals are a done deal now, the sources explained.
Peretz reported that several media outlets have refused to run ads in which the Histadrut is attacking Hapoalim and Shari Arison, one of the controling shareholders. Peretz also rebuked Poster Media, which advertises in bus stations, for removing all the ads after Arison said she would sue them for libel. "The money barons, who control the media, are trying to shut us up, but the battle is only beginning," Peretz said.
Bank Hapoalim responded to yesterday's press conference as follows: "Peretz is continuing his elections campaign, using the empty coffers of the Histadrut to advance his own personal agenda. En route, Peretz is trampling over the rule of law and the principle of an authorized union, and does not have qualms about using unkosher measures. The Labor Court has reviewed the moves of the bank and its union and found them to be absolutely legal."
The Histadrut has a deficit of NIS 1.42 billion, and one of its biggest creditors is Bank Hapoalim.
Hapoalim's union yesterday asked the chairman of the Central Elections Committee, Justice Mishael Cheshin, to put a stop to the Histadrut's statements and ads against Hapoalim. These publications are in fact an elections campaign for One Nation, the party that Peretz leads, the union said. The Histadrut's campaign against Hapoalim is costing NIS 1.2 million, and the labor federation itself does not deny the direct link between its public campaign against Hapoalim and the coming elections, Hapoalim's union explained.
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