Leumi, First International Bank Staffers Launching Protest Action This Morning

Staffers at Bank Leumi, demanding stock options and bonuses as the government prepares to sell off its controlling stake, are launching an unusual industrial action. Beginning today, potential foreign investors in the bank will be advised through economic online media not to bid for Leumi for as long as there is no agreement with the workers. Most Leumi branches were closed yesterday at 11 A.M. as part of their protest at privatization, while the irate staff will shut the bank's headquarters, its call center and its computer center at Lod until 11 A.M. today.

Meanwhile, disgruntled managers and signatories at First International Bank have decided to launch a job action - beginning this morning, they will refuse to issue new credit cards, will not provide any foreign currency transactions, and will not refill the bank's ATMs.

"We gave management two months to reach an agreement on our demands, but the talks ended in a stalemate," Yona Goldshlagger, chairman of the staffers committee, said yesterday.

The senior staffers are demanding a bonus equal to one month's pay based on First International's profits in 2003 and 2004; additional overtime pay; and inclusion of workers at subsidiary Investec in the collective work agreement.

"We were surprised at the committee's renewing the industrial dispute and repeating its unreasonable demands, despite reaching an agreement that workers would receive bonuses on account of profits to be made in 2005," First International Bank management said yesterday.