Stock exchange won't trade Sunday if Bank strike still on

Decision a response to a Bank of Israel worker's strike; schools, port, Ben-Gurion flights affected by ongoing labor disputes.

By SHARON WROBEL, JPOST.COM STAFF
March 13, 2007 22:48
3 minute read.
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The stock exchange announced it will not commence trading on Sunday if the ongoing dispute with the Bank of Israel is not settled by then. The decision was made in response to a Bank of Israel worker's strike, due to an impasse in the four-year long labor dispute with the Finance Ministry. Israelis faced another day of strikes Wednesday, as government officials failed to break the deadlock over new employment terms for the central bank workers, teachers and port workers, and departures from Ben-Gurion Airport were delayed. "We are creating norms according to which new employment terms and agreements are established through the pressure of labor sanctions and strike actions", said Uriel Lynn, president of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce. On Tuesday, Bank of Israel employees walked out in a second day of strike actions, despite the start of intensive negotiations between the management of the central bank and the Finance Ministry in an effort to forge a new wage deal within 48 hours. "Unfortunately, we were not invited to participate in the talks. There is no collective agreement without the workers and, therefore, we decided to continue with the strike action on Tuesday," said Gali Gabbai, spokeswoman of the Bank of Israel workers' union. "As of Tuesday evening, no progress had been made in the talks on reaching an agreement, and therefore the strike was declared until further notice." As on Monday, all central bank operations were halted Tuesday, including the transfer of cash to bank branches and ATM machines. Employees stopped processing foreign currency deposits and were not providing data on bank assets. The Israel Airports Authority workers committee on Tuesday launched a slowdown by air traffic controllers at Ben-Gurion Airport, which delayed departures by ten minutes to an hour beginning in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the Secondary School Teachers Association and student representatives also renewed an ongoing wave of strikes on Tuesday. Teachers at secondary schools in Jerusalem, Mevaseret Zion, Ma'aleh Adumim, Givat Ze'ev, Gush Etzion, Beit Shemesh, Abu Ghosh, Ma'aleh Ephraim, the southern Jordan Valley and the Binyamin region continued to strike throughout Tuesday. Classes in Modi'in, Maccabim, Re'ut and Ashkelon were also cancelled. On Tuesday morning, Eli Cohen, the Finance Ministry's director of wages met up with Ran Erez, chairman of the Secondary School Teachers Association, urging the latter to call off the strike and engage in intensive negotiations over reform in the education system. At the same time, the Finance Ministry announced it was in the final stages of preparing a petition for an injunction for the National Labor Court to stop the strike from continuing. Erez is expected to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday morning and announce a decision. Meanwhile, however, the association announced that secondary schools throughout Haifa would strike Wednesday. Teachers are demanding an improvement in their wages and an increase in the number of early retirement packages offered to educators. At the same time, university students were continuing their battle over issues surrounding the lowering of tuition fees. Tel Aviv University and Kiryat Ono's Academic Campus (a private college), did not hold classes or examinations on Tuesday. Elsewhere, National Insurance Institute (NII) staff launched strike sanctions over pay demands at all branches Tuesday. Offices remained closed and staff did not take calls from the public. NII workers are expected to resume work as usual on Wednesday. Ashdod Port employees also continued their walk out, which started on Monday and halted the loading and unloading of ships in the port. The Israel Manufacturers' Association estimated that this strike caused NIS 40 million in damages and was delaying goods worth $90m. The strike action was launched in protest of the refusal by the Treasury and the Government Companies Authority to approve a draft agreement reached three weeks ago between the workers' committee and the management of the Ashdod Port.


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