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Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer cancelled his press conference he had planned for Monday night, allaying suspicions that he was intending to announce his resignation. Fischer had called the conference after bank employees on Monday afternoon had called their first strike in five years.
Fisher spoke with Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson and the two agreed to accelerate negotiations over bank employees' salaries. The negotiations had been delayed by an attempt by a bank official to curtail non-standard salary perks.
Bank managers and employees had already received letters from the official in charge of salaries, informing them that the current benefits coming under scrutiny would be cancelled, and they would be expected to return money that had been paid out "illegally."
However, after Hirchson's conversation with Fischer, the Finance Ministry agreed to freeze the instruction for 48 hours.
All bank operations were halted as a result of Monday's strike, 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.
If the strike continues, a cash shortage is expected within a few days, and some officials feared that the stock exchange would carry out its threat to stop trading.
Army Radio quoted a Finance Ministry official as saying, "This is a wild strike of a wild union that enjoys illegal benefits and wants to keep them, at the public's expense."
The Bank of Israel's management has not yet announced whether it intends to request an injunction against the strike.
On Sunday, Channel 2 reported some of the unusual benefits to which Bank of Israel employees are entitled: car stipends, even for employees who don't own a car or have a driver's license; a payment of 60 days' salary after an employee ends his or her work at the bank; and a provision allowing senior employees to accrue and use up to 220 days of paid leave.