Discount Workers to Shut Down Three Main Branches Today

Israel Discount Bank workers will strike today at the bank's three largest branches - in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa - following Friday's shutdown of 26 branches.

Discount employees are taking work action after their failure to make progress in labor negotiations. The workers' union, headed by Ricky Bachar, is demanding that management give Discount workers a 10 percent salary raise as well as a special bonus for 2004 due to the bank's enormous net profits that year.

The expected merger of Union Bank of Israel into Discount and the bank's decision to sell its provident and mutual funds are likely to worsen the current dispute. The union is demanding a deal to pay a merger bonus worth at least one monthly salary to every employee. The committee is also demanding a bonus worth tens of thousands of shekels per worker for each of the 70 employed by the provident and mutual funds that the bank has decided to sell. This demand alone would cost the bank NIS 5 million.

Regional Labor Court Judge Ilan Itah will hand down his decision on a restraining order petition filed by Discount management over the weekend against the union and the Histadrut Labor Federation in reaction to work disruption measures taken by employees. Management is claiming that the committee and the Histadrut bank workers' division are violating their commitment not to strike as long as the privatization process has yet to be completed.

Meanwhile, Bank Leumi workers' union decided not to take any labor action or go on strike today given the progress in talks with CEO Galia Maor regarding their demands prior to the bank's privatization. Leumi employees are demanding options for 6 percent of bank shares at preferred rates. They are also seeking a one-time bonus of NIS 40,000-50,000 per worker and an extension of their collective bargaining agreement by 5-7 years.