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Tel Aviv Stock Exchange employees are threatening to paralyze trade on February 28, the expiry date for NIS 2 billion worth of index options.

The Histadrut labor federation declared a labor dispute at the bourse two weeks ago, and there has been no significant progress in the wage negotiations between the Histadrut and the bourse's management.

A strike the day the options expire will cause tremendous damage, as the expiry date will be extended until the day trade resumes. The TASE's workers' committee, headed by Yitzhak Lerner, has not decided whether the strike will be a one-day event, or open-ended if no progress is made in the talks.

The labor dispute stems from a disagreement between bourse management and the workers concerning their 2007 wages.

"We are at the end of February 2008 and still have not signed a collective wage agreement for 2007," said Amir Sheftel, chairman of the Tel Aviv region clerk's union. Sheftel said the workers are demanding a 4.5% pay hike, while the management is offering a 0.5% across-the-board raise and a performance-based raise of up to 3.3% for deserving employees.

Another bone of contention concerns the bourse management's refusal to grant regular employee status to all the workers employed under personal (outsourcing) contracts. Later this week, the management will report on the status of the labor dispute to members of the stock exchange, including the foreign investors.