Histadrut: Over 4,000 Bank Workers May Lose Their Jobs

More than 10 percent of the banking workforce could lose their jobs, according to Shlomo Shani, the outgoing head of the professional workers division of the Histadrut labor federation. Speaking at a conference on the weekend run by Center for Israeli Management, Shani warned that "4,000 workers, over 10 percent of the entire workforce in the banking industry, may be fired as a result of the capital market reforms, which will remove the provident and mutual funds from the banks' hands and transfer them to other financial bodies.

"As a result of the recommendations of the Bachar committee on the reforms, there will be aggressive competition between brokers in order to show returns for the year, but they will not try to achieve long term yields for savers. The risk for savers in provident funds will increase and they will appeal to the Histadrut to defend them," he told the forum.

"The Ministry of Finance's method to implement the reforms works this way. First they attack those who oppose them, in order to soften up the public's fury, and to raise them up against the body which they plan to reform. Then they create antagonistic public opinion, after which they work to build a positive opinion for their reforms, using the slogan `to improve the economy through the reforms'. Later they initiate legislation. Then from this position of power with the law already in place, they begin to talk with the representatives of the workers, and only at the very end do they find time to repair the damage. This is what happened in the pension fund reforms, also in the structural changes in the ports, and now with the Bachar reforms. Here too, the consumer will need the Histadrut's help," continued Shani.

Sunday, representatives of the bank workers and the Histadrut will meet with Finance Ministry Director General Joseph Bachar, in an attempt to convince him to delay the implementation of the reforms named for the committee he chaired, until after the treasury conducts negotiations with them over the reform's effects.

"We are required to defend the workers in the banking system who will be hurt by the planned reforms which will weaken the banks, and also the workers." So claimed the heads of the unions of Bank Leumi, Israel Discount Bank, the First International Bank, Bank Hapoalim, and the head of the Histadrut's banking sector.

They further claimed "We do not object to competition between the banks and the insurance companies, which will serve the consumers' interests, but we will not agree to a process where work conditions turn into a jungle and families lose their livelihoods."

The Histadrut has recently declared a work dispute against the government as a result of the Bachar committee recommendations.

The banks' managements have supported the Histadrut in this battle, and recently encouraged the publication of ads on behalf of dozens of unions, in particular from the public sector, against the planned reforms.

The Histadrut has decided to run a public fight against the recommendations, and to take strong actions, including shutting down the entire banking industry and even other parts of the economy in sympathy, as the time to implement the reforms approaches.