Beinleumi Workers Wind Up Strike as Union Enters Picture

The strike at the First International Bank of Israel (Beinleumi ) has ended after 12 days. All the bank's branches will open today, as will branches of Bank Otsar Hahayal, a subsidiary bank that had shut for a week.

The strike may have ended yesterday, but no agreement was reached between unions and management. Instead, Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini intervened and met yesterday with the bank's CEO, Smadar Barber-Tsadik, and agred to her proposal that Eini lead the negotiations on behalf of the two striking unions for middle managers and clerks.

The Histadrut said Eini agreed to intervene as the sides had reached a deadlock, and customers were suffering because they could not receive basic banking services.

As a sign of good faith, the unions decided to extend opening hours for bank branches into the afternoon today. Tomorrow they will be open later than usual, too.

The unions declared an official labor dispute and went on strike over the size of the bonuses Beinleumi offered them for 2009, as well as over demands for more manpower at the branches. No agreement was reached regarding these or any other issues, except that mangement would be more flexible in its policies on marketing products and how it treats employees who do the marketing.

"We did not fold despite the protracted strike," said a member of the bank's management. But management did admit that transferring the negotiations from the unions to Eini "means we will have to give up on something."

The clerks union called the move positive and said it was pleased Eini had entered the picture. Eini said he would try to end the talks within a week.