Central Bank Wage Accord? Maybe Not

In fact, for all the applause, it never was signed

Two and a half weeks ago, the Prime Minister's Office announced signature on a new standard employment agreement for the Bank of Israel. Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer congratulated Olmert for his achievement in pushing through an agreement.

The rub is, there is no agreement.

Two things are holding it back. The wages director over at the Finance Ministry, Eli Cohen, refuses to sanction adding NIS 500 a month to salaries, instead of the "car allowance" the workers used to have, whether or not they had a driving license, let alone a car.

Nor does Cohen accept that salary cuts for "second-generation" managers, including the present director-general Jacob Danon and the Supervisor of Banks Roni Hizkiyahu, should apply only to their successors, but not to them.

That second issue is the knottier one. It involves negotiations with the union. The management has to persuade the union that the times have changed and it has to accept cuts.

But the union remains unconvinced and in fact, the agreement has not been signed, nor does it seem likely to be signed in the foreseeable future.

In any case, the management at the Bank of Israel and the workers should know that the attorney general, Meni Mazuz, refuses to sanction the NIS 500 pay raise. Nor does he agree that the pay cut be deferred to the next round of hiring, and without his imprimatur, there's no agreement anyway.

Maybe Mazuz will be the factor that finally drags down the management and union from the trees they climbed.