Maariv, one of Israel’s oldest and most established newspapers, took a turn for the worse Wednesday, as 183 employees were put on leave without pay.
Management did not disclose how long the “leave” would last.
The news came at the end of a trying week for the newspaper, which stopped printing its daily editions on Sunday. Journalists at the once-popular newspaper, which has seen a steady decline in readership and income in recent years, were told on Saturday night by owner Shlomo Ben-Tzvi not to show up for work.
On Tuesday, employees filed a complaint against Ben-Tzvi, claiming that since July 2013 he has failed to pay into their pension funds — despite the amount being withdrawn from their salaries each month.
Ben-Tzvi, owned of the Makor Rishon company that bought Maariv in 2012, is said to be looking for new partners or buyers for the struggling daily.
The Makor Rishon company, which also puts out the daily Makor Rishon newspaper, reportedly owes creditors — including freelancers — and employees some NIS 3.5 million ($1 million) due to Maariv’s lackluster performance.
Ben-Tzvi told the court his company cannot currently pay its debts. He has reportedly sunk some NIS 90 million ($26 million) in the daily over the past year and a half.
He has proposed a recovery plan that would see drastic cuts in the newspaper’s staff and the sale of Maariv’s website, NRG, in addition to ending the weekday printings of the daily in its current format.
During the meeting in which the news was announced, several employees angrily turned to the court-appointed trustee and accused him of “being a hangman for Ben-Tzvi.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.