Leumi, Discount workers on strike

The nationwide strike at Leumi comes after the workers carried out industrial action of increasing intensity over recent weeks.

By YIGAL GRAYEFF
November 14, 2005 07:02
3 minute read.
bank leumi 88

bank leumi 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Bank Leumi employees continued their protests on Sunday against the company's privatization by closing all the bank's branches to the public, while Israel Discount Bank workers held strikes at three main branches to protest the sale of the company's mutual and provident funds' assets. The nationwide strike at Leumi comes after the workers carried out industrial action of increasing intensity over recent weeks, including conducting partial strikes and holding a rally of 10,000 workers last Tuesday. Louis Roth, chairman of the bank's workers union, warned that the workers' actions would become even more severe if the employees' demands were not met. "We will not hesitate to take any and all actions to protect our livelihood and rights, including damaging the bank, its clients and its revenues," he said. The labor union held talks with Leumi's management and the Finance Ministry over the weekend and on Sunday at press time the union was carrying out internal discussions about the Treasury's proposals and whether or not to continue with the strike on Monday. However a union spokesman said that it was likely the workers would reject the offer. "It didn't sound as if they would come to an agreement soon," he said. As part of the Leumi privatization, the government is selling a 10 percent stake and an option to acquire another 10% in a tender that is due to end on Monday at midnight. Most of the remainder of the government's stake, which is just over 4%, is due to be divided up among the employees, although they are demanding 6%. However, a bigger sticking point is whether the government will force the winning bidder to maintain the collective agreement, the union spokesman said. "The workers fear that there will be massive cuts, that the bank will pay high dividends at the expense of the workers, and that they will not get the privatization bonus they deserve," he said. A spokesman for MI Holdings, the government company that handles the state's banking assets, said Leumi's workers will receive benefits similar to what the workers of other privatized banks received. In order to safeguard their rights, they will have to hold negotiations with the bank's new owners. Leumi's employees are receiving increasing sympathy in the Knesset, and the Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee has scheduled an emergency meeting for Monday to discuss the issue. While Leumi branches across the country were closed, Discount Bank workers limited their strikes to the central outlets in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. However, they were ordered to stop their industrial action by the Tel Aviv Regional Labor Court, which is due to hold hearings about the dispute on Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the workers said they are protesting that Discount Bank agreed to sell its interests in mutual and provident funds without consulting the workers, although a bank spokeswoman said the dispute was not about the sale of the assets but rather about pay, and that the workers' rights would be safeguarded. "We have promised that nothing will happen to the workers and that they will be looked after," she said. Last Wednesday, Discount Bank agreed to sell its shares in Ilanot Discount and the operations of Discount Management Provident Funds to Clal Enterprise Insurance Holdings for a total of NIS 1.31b.

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