Strike called off after union, treasury reach deal on broadcaster
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Strike called off after union, treasury reach deal on broadcaster

In addition to increased pension benefits, accord requires 65% of staff from shuttering IBA to be rehired by new corporation

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

Demonstrators protest against the intention to dismantle parts of the new public broadcasting corporation in Tel Aviv on April 1, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Demonstrators protest against the intention to dismantle parts of the new public broadcasting corporation in Tel Aviv on April 1, 2017. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

A massive open-ended general strike slated for Tuesday was called off Monday as the Finance Ministry and the Histadrut labor federation came to terms over a new public broadcaster being launched.

On Sunday, the Histadrut had threatened a sweeping strike throughout the public sector if a deal on the new broadcasting corporation, known as Kan, was not reached within 48 hours to prevent the firing of staff of the Israel Broadcast Authority, which is due to be shuttered.

The protest was expected to cause severe disruptions across government offices, universities, hospitals, the Israel Railways and other public institutions.

In the deal reached by union chief Avi Nissenkorn and Finance Ministry director Shai Babad, 65 percent of the IBA employees will be absorbed into the new broadcaster.

In addition,100 more workers will be given jobs in other government offices; IBA employees between the ages of 40 and 50 will be prevented from future dismissal; and their pension packages will improve significantly, a Finance Ministry statement said.

The new broadcaster is slated to launch in mid-May, after several delays as the ruling coalition has fought over its makeup and government control over the body.

Histadrut labor federation leader Avi Nissenkorn (left) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (right) shake hands during talks on December 21, 2015, aimed at avoiding a general strike over public-sector wages. (screen capture: Channel 2)
Histadrut labor federation leader Avi Nissenkorn (left) and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (right) shake hands during talks on December 21, 2015, aimed at avoiding a general strike over public-sector wages. (screen capture: Channel 2)

In 2014, the Knesset passed broad reforms that would close the IBA, which politicians at the time described as increasingly irrelevant and costly, and replace it with Kan.

Under a deal reached last month — which ended a coalition standoff that threatened new elections — it was agreed that Kan would lose its centerpiece news division, for which staff had been hired, and the old IBA staffers were instead to provide the station’s news in the coming months before a new news department is set up.

Nissenkorn praised the Monday agreement in a statement, saying it “protects the livelihood of hundreds of workers.”

Babad added that the deal was struck out of a “social responsibility” to the IBA workers and to “correct distortions” that were caused to the pensions of IBA retirees.

Labor MK Shelly Yachimovich, who is running against Nissenkorn in the upcoming elections to head the Histadrut, had criticized the union leader earlier this month for doing too little too late.

Zionist Union parliament member Shelly Yachimovich at the Knesset. July 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Zionist Union parliament member Shelly Yachimovich at the Knesset. July 25, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Following Monday’s announcement, she said the strike was an empty threat that “no one thought would actually take place.”

She added that the threat of the strike was “cynically dropped at the height of Holocaust Remembrance Day,” after its true goal of grabbing national headlines had already been achieved.

“The bitter reality in which many hundreds of family bread-bearers are sent home remains the same,” she said.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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