Striking Workers Close Discount Branches

Israel Discount Bank branches all over the country will be closed today, the bank's union decided yesterday. Discount employees will assemble this afternoon at the Tel Aviv port for a protest; Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini is also scheduled to attend.

Bank CEO Giora Offer was set to meet last night with Eini to try to head off the strike.

The Discount union, headed by Riki Bachar, declared an official labor dispute weeks ago. Yesterday it sent out a letter to all employees, saying the battle was not about wages but putting an end to outsourcing at the bank. "We are fighting to protect our rights as organized workers," the union wrote.

Over the past few days, the union has held a number of negotiating sessions with the bank's head of human resources, Amnon Gideon. Offer also attended one of these meetings, but no real progress was made.

The union is demanding that 750 of the 1,000 people employed at Discount via outside contractors be granted permanent positions as bank employees. In addition, the union is asking for salaries to be raised - an average of 5% per employee; the bank's management, however, is only offering 2.5%.