With the future of their unpaid salaries and pension funds in doubt, hundreds of Ma’ariv employees marched to Azrieli Mall on Thursday, where they demanded answers from the newspaper’s parent company IDB Holding Corp.

Shouting “Nochi [Dankner, IDB controlling shareholder], where’s the money,” the employees announced that they will go on strike on Monday and there will be no paper on Erev Yom Kippur. As the elevators were out of order, a number of employees climbed 41 flights of stairs to the IDB offices, where a few entered the company cafeteria and created a ruckus before leaving.

The employees also tried to enter a Shufersal chain next to Azrieli Mall, but security guards barred their entry.

Haggai Matar, head of the reporters committee organized by Ma’ariv workers, said they still have not heard from management regarding how much of their outstanding salaries or pension funds terminated employees will receive, a fact that only causes greater concern.

Also Thursday, Ma’ariv Holdings filed for a stay of proceedings at the Tel Aviv District Court, reporting a debt of NIS 408 million – of which almost a quarter is owed to employees.

The company filed the application immediately after informing the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange of the completion of the sale of Ma’ariv, news website NRG and associated publications to businessman Shlomo Ben-Tzvi for up to NIS 74m.

“The newspaper has been an inalienable asset of the Israeli media since before the state’s establishment. It was the country’s most widely distributed newspaper, a status it maintained for decades,” the application said.

It continued: “Very regretfully, as has been the case with other media outlets in recent times, the newspaper’s situation has worsened. Now it is helpless, and there is no way of continuing without a credit arrangement.”

According to the application, Ma’ariv owes NIS 95.5m. to its more than 1,500 employees, including NIS 53.5m. for severance pay and NIS 20.3m. for layoffs. It owes around NIS 54m. to the banks, NIS 67.7m. to bondholders, NIS 34m.to suppliers and NIS 126m. to parent company Discount Investment Corporation.

Ben-Tzvi, publisher of national - religious newspaper Makor Rishon, declared his intention to keep publishing Ma'ariv. He committed to employing around 300 of the publication’s existing workforce, with the option of adding another 100 staff if needed. It is still unclear if Ma'ariv will stay open or merge with Makor Rishon.

Dankner was abroad during the Wednesday night board meeting at which the sale was approved. He has reportedly committed to advising the IDB board that it cover at least 69 percent of what is owed to Ma’ariv staff.

Dankner acquired control of Ma’ariv early last year, promising to turn the newspaper into a “Zionist and patriotic Israeli newspaper” that would not serve any particular political or financial interests.”

“[It will be] a newspaper committed to safeguarding democratic values, namely the rule of law and freedom of expression; a newspaper that will place a special emphasis on social sensitivities and on human interaction and the equality of all people; a newspaper that is attentive to the feelings of the public and to progress in the Galilee and the Negev and all the outlying areas,” he said at the time.

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