Former Union Boss Takes Job Advising Bank

Ofer Eini, longtime chairman of the Histadrut labor federation, to help Discount Bank with labor relations.

Moti Milrod

Ofer Eini, who only a few months ago was Israel’s top labor leader, switched sides Thursday, signing on to act as an adviser at Israel Discount Bank as it readies to do battle with unions over cutbacks.

Eini, who was chairman of the Histadrut labor federation for eight years before stepping down, will help the bank’s CEO, Lilach Asher-Topilsky, and chairman, Yossi Bachar, as they push through a streamlining program that calls for 250 voluntary layoffs over the next year and branch closings. The bank’s workers’ committee has vowed to resist the plan, saying it wasn’t consulted.

“Eini brings many years of experience as a labor leader and public personality,” a bank spokesman said. “The bank is confident he will make a great contribution to Discount’s labor relations.” Eini will be working with the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company.

Eini has already turned down such a job with First International Bank of Israel. Since leaving the labor federation he has served as chairman of the Israel Football Association.

On Thursday, Eini branded his move as labor-capital neutral. “Since I left the Histadrut, many groups have approached me,” he said.

“Discount’s management came to me two months ago in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation with the aim of improving labor relations at the bank. I only accepted after the workers’ committee lent its support.”

Meni Greenstein, the chairman of Discount’s workers’ committee, declined to comment on the appointment. But Ricki Bachar, the workers’ committee chairman at Discount for decades before he was forced to quit this year, lauded it.

“The appointment is great for the bank and the workers. He can only help the two sides because the bank hasn’t learned how to negotiate with the workers, which has stoked crises,” said Bachar, who earned a reputation as a labor militant during his years at Discount.

“It appears the two sides [the bank and the union] reached a boiling point and they needed to bring in someone who would be acceptable to the committee and the workers,” said Bachar. “Ofer won’t serve as a bridge but will manage the negotiations for management.”

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