First International Bank Branches Shut Today

Workers demanding bonus for 2004, new standard employment agreement

Striking workers have shut all the branches of First International Bank of Israel (TASE: FIBI) and subsidiary Bank Poalei Agudat Israel are closed on Monday.

The strike had been declared by FIBI union head Hanoch Livneh.

The current wave of disruptions at FIBI began a few weeks back, when the bank clerks refused to accept the public for two days.

The management is furious at the escalation in disruptions, given that negotiations have been ongoing for two days now.

The bank even offered its workers a one-time bonus amounting to 40% of their monthly wage, but the union rejected the offer.

Last night the head of the Banks division at the central Histadrut labor federation, Zion Shema, commented that he supports the strike, because there has been no genuine progress in the talks.

The workers are protesting management's refusal to pay them a bonus for 2004. Management argues that profits had been feeble that year.

Also, the workers want a new standard employment contract, for five years, a demand that the headquarters has also rejected.

The workers are concerned that FIBI's acquisition of Bank Otsar Hahayal, at the start of 2006, will lead to a merger between the two banks - and layoffs if FIBI branches near Otsar Hahayal outlets are closed down.

The FIBI spokeswoman said that strike or not, the bank managers were working and would try to help customers insofar as possible. "The union's demands are illogical and it refuses to accept the management's proposals to end the feud," she added.