Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Resumes Trading After Halted Due to Wages Dispute

Threats of stepped-up labor sanctions by stock exchange workers brought the bourse to a halt Monday.

The Tel Aviv Bourse will reopen Monday afternoon after threats of stepped-up labor sanctions by Tel Aviv Stock Exchange workers brought the bourse to a halt Monday morning, as the management called their bluff and halted trading when the workers refused to activate the main computer.

Following the intervention of Histadrut Labor Federation Chair Ofer Eini, management and workers agreed to reopen the stock exchange for trading.

Later Monday evening, talks will be held between the management and the employees, with the Histadrut serving as a mediator. Ofer Eini said Monday that he would personally get involved if talks stall.

The TASE has been closing some three hours early for more than two weeks, as workers protest their conditions of employment.

The TASE employees' union is demanding a 15 percent raise, in addition to a bonus for workers equal to seven monthly salaries. According to TASE sources, these demands amount to NIS 15 million a year.

They also want 80 workers employed by outside contractors, including economists and computer technicians, included in the collective agreement.

TASE management is offering lower wage increases and opposes the inclusion of most employees from external contractors.

This is not a trivial sum: In 2005 and 2006 the TASE made NIS 40 million in annual profits on revenues of NIS 180-190 million. Of course those were excellent years for the stock market - and therefore the dispute with the workers will have a clear effect on the exchange's bottom line.

A meeting is scheduled for Monday afternoon between the stock exchange CEO, Ester Levanon, and Histadrut labor union Tel Aviv area chief, Gershon Gelman, in which the workers' demands will be discussed. Histadrut Labor Federation chief Ofer Eini has been called in to help mediate between the two sides.

The union met with workers during working hours last week, and this led to disruptions in a number of operations. Last Tuesday, the union met with management, but the meeting ended without progress. No further meeting has been set yet.

The union accuses management of ignoring, or even holding in contempt, the negotiations to end the dispute. The Histadrut labor federation accuses TASE managing director Ester Levanon of "disappearing," and says that is one of the reasons for the continuation of the shortened trading sessions.