IBA, Jerusalem Journalists Association sign historic employment agreement

After years of disputes over employment conditions, move is a significant step in implementing reforms.

After years of disputes over employment conditions, the Israel Broadcasting Authority and the Jerusalem Journalists Association signed an historic agreement on Friday, another significant step in implementing reforms in the IBA. The agreement sets out conditions for ending the employment of journalists and other IBA employees. However, it will take effect only upon completion of a comprehensive agreement, which both sides expect to be able to sign within three months. Moshe Gavish, chairman of the IBA management committee, said the agreement would pave the way for new work agreements in the IBA immediately after the reforms were implemented. He also expressed hope that the Finance Ministry would stand by its commitments on the proposed reforms. At the end of March, the IBA signed an agreement with the Finance Ministry and the Histadrut in which it undertook to dramatically reduce its payroll over a three-year period, in return for which the Treasury would continue to fund the IBA's operations. Achiya Ginnossar, chairman of the JJA, said his association, with the support of the Histadrut, had engaged in some very tough negotiations for several months, seeking to guarantee the existence of reliable public broadcasting in Israel. Gavish and Ginnossar issued a joint statement in which they said the reforms would enable the IBA to fulfill its proper function - bringing high-level original productions to the Israeli public as an alternative to commercial television. Under the terms of the agreement, the number of employees at the IBA will be reduced by 700. Of these, 320 are members of the Histadrut and 380 are members of the Journalists Association. As a local branch of the National Federation of Israeli Journalists, the JJA has been much more involved in battles with the IBA than with the print media, because the IBA is headquartered in Jerusalem. In addition, the JJA, whose executive is made up of representatives of the electronic and print media, has usually been headed by an employee of either Israel Radio or Israel Television. More often than not, the second slot on the executive was also held by an IBA employee.