Mizrahi Bosses Hit Out at Workers' Lawyer

The labor unrest at United Mizrahi Bank deteriorated yesterday, as management filed a complaint with the police and the Israel Bar Association claiming that the workers' legal counsel, attorney Asher Helled, urged bank employees at a recent conference to ostracize strike breakers.

The bank's management said the complaint was made to protect workers who broke the strike and have been threatened by the labor committee with disciplinary action. The bank also is providing legal aid to these workers.

Helled denied the charges, saying he did not incite anyone to commit crimes and did not deliver poor advice. He said that when a worker joins a labor organization he is making a commitment to demonstrate solidarity. When he fails to do that, it is not only a breach of a contractual obligation, but also parasitic, he added.

"Mizrahi management has failed to reach an agreement on workers' rights following the merger with Bank Tefahot, so it is trying to intimidate me, just as it is threatening the committee," Helled said.

The chair of the bank's labor committee, Sarah Lazarovich, said: "There are no new rabbits in [Mizrahi CEO] Eli Yones' hat. False complaints, scare tactics, empty threats and above all, the ax of dismissal above the heads of the workers. These are the only tools Yones has to break the labor organization and the workers. But they won't help him."

The only way Mizrahi would forge ahead is through cooperation between management and workers, she said.

The committee is demanding the equivalent of one and a half month's salary as a merger bonus, as well as the retraction of 100 letters sent to former Tefahot workers regarding the bank's intention to fire them. The two sides also are locked in a dispute over interpreting management's commitment not to fire Mizrahi workers over the next four years. While management claims it will only desist from firings for cut-costing purposes, the committee is arguing that workers should not be fired for any reason, including disciplinary issues or incompetence.