(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The final obstacle to the implementation of the reform of the Israel Broadcasting Authority has been removed.
In a drawn-out meeting earlier this week between Ilan Levin, the Finance Ministry’s wages director, Moti Sklaar, the IBA director-general and Danny Zaken, the chairman of the Jerusalem Journalists Association, a final agreement on principles was reached, thus paving the way for the first stage in the rehabilitation of Israel’s public broadcasting service.
In an agreement signed a year ago, all sides had agreed to a major staff reduction whereby 700 employees would take early retirement or agree to be dismissed under the most favorable conditions.
Last week, the principles of hiring, firing, work conditions and salaries pertaining to this agreement were ironed out in a meeting between representatives of the IBA management, the Finance Ministry, the Histadrut labor federation and those unions at the IBA that are represented by the Histadrut.
On Sunday, a similar meeting was held with representatives of the IBA journalists in which all matters that had remained in dispute were settled.
Among the issues agreed upon were the establishment of a new scale of seniority, with ranking applicable to the special conditions under which journalists perform their duties; the number of journalists who will be employed on a comprehensive salary based on a 41-hour working week with a reform increment of 8 percent plus an increment of 5% retroactive from January 2008, in accordance with wage increases which were given to the whole public sector two years ago.
Although the IBA is a state-owned service, the majority of IBA journalists did not receive salaries at the same level as other public servants.
The principles of the agreement will be compiled and composed into the proper legal language by the beginning of May, and will be presented to Levin for examination prior to be being signed by all the parties involved.
There was consensus at the meeting that the reformation of public broadcasting in Israel was essential, and that the comprehensive agreement would pave the way for actually doing something about the reforms instead of just talking about them.
On the immediate agenda is the challenge to Israeli creativity through the commissioning of new programs and the general improvement of broadcasting services.
Up until now, the IBA had to severely curtail new productions due to its huge deficit.
Sklaar said that the agreements reached last week and this week pointed to “a new era” in which the IBA “will march to the shore of promise” with programs of meaningful content that will make it a major player in Israel’s communications industry.
Zaken said that the successful outcome of the meeting was an important breakthrough that would lead to much healthier employer/employee relations.
Of the 700 people who will cease to be employed by the IBA, 350 are journalists, he said, but they will be leaving under vastly improved financial conditions.
He was aware of anxiety on the part of some journalists who feared a loss of livelihood, but assured them that the severance pay would give them ample time in which to find another job. As for those leaving on early retirement, they will find themselves in much better financial circumstances than they had anticipated.
As for the Jerusalem Journalists Association, Zaken was pleased that at long last it could focus on other important issues.
Baruch Straussberg, Levin’s deputy, said in an interview with Israel
Radio that the dismissals and early retirements would take place over a
three-year period. This would enable the reforms to be carried out
smoothly and would also give a lot of people more time to make
adjustments for their future, he said.