Israel Broadcasting Authority Workers Get Temporary Reprieve

The 1,580 staffers of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA), who have for some time been anticipating receiving dismissal notices, were given a temporary reprieve on Sunday, August 30, thanks to the intervention of the Histadrut Labor Federation. In response to the IBA crisis and understanding that the same so-called “efficiency measures” imposed on the body could be applied to any state-owned enterprise, the Histadrut began a series of solidarity strike actions including work stoppages at the airport and maritime ports, in commercial transport, and tax collection.

IBA workers demonstrate in Jerusalem.

IBA workers demonstrate in Jerusalem. (Photo: IBA workers’ union)

Shortly before the special Knesset committee formed to vote on the Israeli Broadcast Corporation Law met to authorize the legislation for its final reading, Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn and incoming Science, Technology and Space Minister Ophir Akunis – responsible for the IBA – agreed to scrap plans for mass layoffs and wage cuts from the bill. In exchange, Nissenkorn, suspended all solidarity strike actions.

Before the agreement, Nissenkorn had warned that the bill, as planned, would “land a fatal blow to public broadcasting in Israel.” Union leaders said the government could adopt the IBA as precedent and decide by whim to initiate legislation which will call for large-scale dismissals at other state bodies. Therefore, the labor dispute declared by Nissenkorn two weeks ago has been suspended but not canceled; it can be renewed at any time should the government once again renege on agreements reached with or regarding the IBA.

Following the agreement between Nissenkorn and Akunis, the special Knesset committee authorized the Israeli Broadcast Corporation bill, including its new amendments which delay the dismissal of workers. The legislation also retroactively cancels the television tax from January 2015.

The parties will now enter negotiations over the scope of the efficiency plans and how they are to affect employees. The bill would have seen some 500 workers laid off immediately, as plans to trim the IBA budget by NIS 10 million every month stood to go into effect. Nissenkorn is demanding that the new public broadcast entity take on over 25 percent of the IBA’s current employees.

While workers are reluctantly prepared to accept the drastic reforms that were previously agreed to and signed by representatives of the Finance Ministry, the Histadrut, and the National Union of Journalists, they intend to fight the shutdown of the IBA until the very last moment – and beyond. According to Hadash MK Dov Khenin (Joint List) the dissolution of the IBA is just the beginning of a means for the right-wing government to control all the media in Israel, and to abolish those media outlets which do not comply with its directives.