Business in Brief

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Unions declare labor dispute at FIBI

The Histadrut labor federation on Monday declared a labor dispute at First International Bank of Israel and its Bank Poalei Agudat Israel subsidiary, meaning that staff may go on strike after a 14-day cooling-off period. Hanan Livne, chairman of the bank’s workers committee, said the union declared the dispute after management refused the current collective labor agreements for another five years. He accused management of trying to block and censor material union leaders wanted to circulate to members, and pressuring staff to work so hard they can’t even take time off for lunch or vacations. A FIBI spokeswoman said the bank didn’t understand why the dispute was being declared, citing generous salary increases and payment of bonuses. ‏(Haim Bior‏)

Arkia Airlines close to labor accord with union

Arkia Airlines and labor unions are expected to sign a new collective labor agreement later this week after the two sides agreed on a package of layoffs and freezes on salary hikes and bonuses, according to a draft agreement. Management consented to reducing the number of layoffs from the 70 it originally proposed. No bonuses will be awarded over the next three years, including to management, but neither will salaries be cut. The two sides also completed a partnership agreement. Arkia is 70%-owned by the Nakash brothers and 30% by the workers committee. The agreement will enable them to move ahead with financing the purchases of an Airbus jet for international routes and an ATR for the carrier’s Eilat run. ‏(Zohar Blumenkrantz‏)

Maman to temporarily operate Ben-Gurion terminal for farm products

Maman will begin operating the Ben-Gurion International Airport agricultural products terminal from Tuesday, but only until a new tender awarding the franchise has been made. Maman was given temporary operating control of the facility after antitrust authorities expressed doubts about how the terms of the original tender published by the Airports Authority were structured, saying they appeared designed to ensure that Maman won. Industry sources criticized the decision, saying that Ashdod Bonded − the company that has previously been operating the terminal − should have been allowed to remain rather than bringing in Maman. Ashdod Bonded’s contract expired last December. The new tender will bar Maman and Swissport, both of which operate general cargo terminals, from bidding. ‏(Zohar Blumenkrantz‏)

Dankner asks to bondholders to give him time

Embattled IDB group chairman Nochi Dankner has asked bondholders for a few months of “industrial quiet,” while he recruits new equity investors for his debt-ridden holding group, sources close to the talks between IDB and its creditors said. Dankner made his plea Sunday in a meeting with Jeremy Blank, who represents the York Fund in Israel, a major holder of IDB Development Corporation bonds. Dankner said he could not find significant new capital while his group was fending off creditors in court. Dankner also raised the possibility of IDB Development swapping a certain amount of debt for equity and/or stretching out repayments, a proposal similar to the recovery plan tondholders are asking the Tel Aviv District Court to approve. Blank rejected the proposals and the meeting ended without any understandings, the sources said. ‏(Michael Rochvarger‏)

An Arkia flight.