Bank of Israel Spokesman Gabi Fishman issued a press release on the afternoon of Shavuos about an impending strike, raising the wrath of ranking BOI employees who keep Torah and mitzvos as well as several financial newspapers that were forced to deal with the issue on a holiday.
At 3:00 p.m. on Shavuos, financial reporters covering the BOI received a faxed press release in which Fishman announced that according to Tzvi Tadmor, manager of the Human Resources Department of the BOI, employees participating in the strike, work slowdowns or attending workers' meetings would have their pay docked. On Isru Chag the battle at the BOI was stepped up when workers held a one-day strike to demand a pay raise.
The Workers' Committee accused bank management of rushing to issue the press release during the holiday as part of efforts to maintain a high profile. On Shavuos, Workers' Committee Chairman Rafi Lankry began receiving phone calls from financial reporters asking for his response to the press release. The Workers' Committee says BOI Commissioner Dr. David Klein gave the order to issue the press release at such an inopportune time as part of the struggle against the workers' demands in advance of the strike the following day in order to present the bank in a certain light. "This is unprecedented," said one Workers' Committee member. "Issuing the press release during the middle of the holiday is not based on an urgent security need, but a media-image need in the struggle between bank management and the workers."
Some 800 workers are employed at the Bank of Israel of which an estimated 150 keep Shabbos. Upon hearing about the timing of the press release some of them said they were pained over the shameful desecration of the holiday by bank management and demanded that the commissioner resign. "It cannot be that due to considerations of the prestige of the BOI commissioner in an internal struggle with the workers the chag gets desecrated."
Several days later, hundreds of employees signed a letter of protest that they sent to the BOI management.
Degel HaTorah Chairman MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz said he is demanding the Prime Minister dismiss the BOI commissioner over the incident. "This is another campaign for the elimination of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. Such a thing has not taken place since the country was founded. Is it permitted to desecrate a holiday because of image considerations? Is this pikuach nefesh? We demand the Prime Minister dismiss the commissioner following this."
Degel HaTorah Secretary MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said he would submit an urgent question to the Finance Minister regarding the matter. "Nothing like this has ever happened in the past. If the facts prove to be true we will have to ask for the Bank commissioner's resignation," he said.
Fishman declined to comment on his remarks, instead saying, "It's a shame the Workers' Committee is using an issue like a holiday to spar on the issue of the strike." The spokesman even grew angry at a Yated Ne'eman reporter for calling at 10:30 p.m. to ask for his response. "It's unacceptable to call a spokesman at this kind of hour to receive a response," he said.