(photo credit: REUTERS)
Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon on Tuesday slammed Bank Hapoalim for efficiency plans that include reducing its work force by 600 people even as it rakes in huge profits.
“It is hard not to feel outrage at the contradiction between the huge profits of Israel’s largest bank, one of the banks in the banking duopoly, and the intention to lay off 600 workers.
This is not efficiency, it is greed,” Kahlon said.
“Bank Hapoalim earned NIS 7m. every day this year. I say, instead of cutting workers, let’s have a reform,” said Kahlon, who’s running on a platform of breaking monopolies and introducing competition to bring down the cost of living.
With three banks accounting for 75 percent of the market, he said, there was little reason for them to reduce exorbitant fees on customers.
On Monday, the Bank of Israel ordered a reduction in certain bank fees in an effort to protect consumers and level the playing field among banks.
Meretz MK Ilan Gilon echoed Kahlon’s sentiment.
“It’s good that the bank is going to fire hundreds of workers so it can double, triple, quadruple its profits. In the meantime, we’ll remain a country in which a teacher works for 30 years in order to earn what a bank manager makes in a month,” he said.
Hapoalim, which has cut about 1,000 jobs in recent years, says it is coordinating its plans with its worker unions.
Chairman Yair Seroussi said increasing efficiency was one of the three central points in the bank’s strategic plan, alongside driving growth and technology.
“Bank Hapoalim’s vision includes a commitment to Israeli society, in which we operate and from which we draw our strength,” he said.
To that end, the bank introduced a new “digital branch” concept on Monday, which would increase technology in branches to help identify customers as they enter, allow them to use tablets to carry out transactions and sign digital forms and allow videoconferencing with advisers remotely.
The steps were expected to reduce paper and increase efficiency, which may lower its labor requirements. The first digital branches will open this year.
Hapoalim announced earlier in the day that its profit rose to NIS 2.74 billion in 2014 (See story, Page 18). It also reported that its efficiency program, which will be based mainly on early-retirement packages, will cost NIS 390 million. Already in 2014, it said its salary-related expenditures had decreased 2.5 percent.