Discount Bank Staffers Strike as Talks Break Down

The negotiations between Israel Discount Bank employees and M.I.Holdings, which handles privatizations on behalf of the state, have stalled. As a result, the bank workers will strike today at 80 of the bank's 120 branches throughout the country.

M.I.Holdings representatives rejected the workers' demand to preserve the collective work agreements for at least five years from the privatization date. The state's representatives offered to preserve the agreements for three years, but the workers committee rejected this offer.

The meeting was attended by Discount workers committee chair Riki Bachar, Histadrut bank employees unit chief Zion Shema, M.I.Holdings director general Yitzhak Klein and Yossi Kucik, a consultant hired by M.I.Holdings.

No agreement was reached regarding the protest by the workers committee and the Histadrut against the sale of Discount's holdings, such as Mercantile Discount Bank, Discount Mortgage Bank and the bank's lucrative New York branch. Another bone of contention is the privatization bonus the workers are demanding.

"Negotiations have been exhausted," said Shema. "We will not continue meetings with company heads at this point. We will transfer the handling of this crisis to Histadrut chairman Amir Peretz, who promised to intervene personally to find a solution."