In a drastic move on Wednesday evening, Haaretz employees voted 125-68 to go on
a one-day strike, meaning that no Thursday paper will be printed this week. The
strike also applies to the paper’s Hebrew and English website, and the website
of TheMarker.com. The Haaretz websites had resumed operations and were back online as of early Thursday morning.
The decision came at the end of a long, at times rather heated
meeting of the Haaretz workers’ committee held at the office of theMarker,
during which the lack of unanimity towards the strike was laid
Diplomatic Correspondent Barak Ravid took the microphone and minced
no words about the wisdom of the strike, saying “this extreme act will do more
harm than good”, and asking workers what they’ll do “the morning after the
doomsday weapon [the strike] is used and does not work.”
Ravid later took
to his Twitter page after the vote, saying “a serious mistake was made tonight;
Haaretz is on the way to disaster.”
He also commented that the next step
in the workers struggle will be "a mass suicide on the peak of Masada."
Columnist Gideon Levy, one of the most identifiable symbols of the newspaper,
also spoke out against the strike, saying that while the strike is absolutely
justified, “there are situations in life where there is nothing you can do”,
adding that “we’ll go on strike tonight and then tomorrow we’ll be back in
exactly the same situation again.”
“This situation is very, very
dangerous. I recommend counting to 10, and to remember that there are situations
where you can’t do anything, and where the action you take is more damaging than
what you’re fighting.”
While there was disagreement about the
worth-whileness of the strike, there appeared to be unanimity about the treatment
of workers by Haaretz management.
Members of the committee repeatedly
characterized management as avoiding any real dialogue with the committee, as
well as uncertain about the size of the layoffs they are expected to make in the
near future. In recent weeks management and workers have talked about the
impending termination as including around 100 of the paper’s over 400 workers.
No final number has been given, according to the workers
Haaretz Publisher Amos Schocken took aim at the committee in a
scathing letter sent out on in which he denied that the paper has not held
negotiations with employees or divulged financial information to them, saying
that they have fully disclosed such information, and have repeatedly met and
held talks with workers.
Schocken also said that the committee is full of
lies and that no matter how they have tried to explain the economic situation to
the workers "there is only one thing that matters to you, that we freeze the
terminations." Schocken added that he has invested a great deal in the paper in
recent years, and that they still have no choice but to make
"It's a shame that as much as we have discussed this you have
still not internalized the business reality that we are working in, which has
changed beyond recognition and which requires us to take action."
“But if it is
the fate of Haaretz to close, than better it close now than a few months from
now like Maariv, and those who don’t understand what that means, it’s hard to
understand what they’re doing in journalism."
Also on Wednesday, hundreds of
Ma'ariv employees protested in Jerusalem outside the prime minister's home,
calling for Netanyahu and the government to intervene to save the paper which is
in danger of closing altogether.