Uncertainty shrouds IBA's future

Employees are becoming increasingly nervous about the possible repercussions of the implementation of reforms intended to keep their employer afloat.

IBA 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
IBA 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Employees at the Israel Broadcasting Authority are becoming increasingly nervous about the possible repercussions of the implementation of reforms intended to keep the IBA operating. For more than twenty years the IBA has been under threat of closure due to ever increasing deficits. Money earned from license fees, radio commercials, sponsorships of television programs and sales of IBA productions have been insufficient to cover wages, production costs, acquisitions and other expenses. As a result, the IBA is constantly in deficit and, year after year, is told by the Finance Ministry that unless it gets its act together there will be no more funding from the Treasury. Some form of compromise had always been reached at the eleventh hour, but the Treasury's patience is running out - and the well is running dry. A study conducted by an external company and commissioned by IBA chairman Moshe Gavish reached the conclusion that drastic cuts had to be made in expenditures for the IBA to remain afloat, and such cuts will necessitate some 700 IBA employees being relieved of their jobs. The matter has been taken to Labor Court again and again; the court keeps sending the two sides back to try and reach some accommodation. The dispute will be back in court on July 10. The various labor unions representing different branches of IBA staff realize that the status quo cannot be maintained, but demand that those people slated for dismissal be sent home with sufficient severance pay and pension rights to enable them to live in dignity. The major problem in this regard is that basic salaries at the IBA were and are extremely low, except for those employees who are on private contracts. Those who work under collective agreements supplement their basic salaries with overtime and were also paid for being on stand-by. Those perks have already been cancelled - except where absolutely necessary - as pre-implementation of the reforms and a sign of good faith to the Treasury by management. Meanwhile, employees have also been notified that they must go on forced vacations to avoid accumulating holiday pay, and avoid incurring even minor expenses while at work. Many popular radio and television programs have been temporarily suspended, if not cancelled. Initially this applied only to late-night and weekend programs, to cut down on studio costs, but it now also includes daytime programs. Although there had been progress in negotiations between the unions and management, nothing is definite, said a source within the IBA, who didn't want to be named. Listeners to radio call-in programs have been protesting, especially senior citizens who have said that they are unable to sleep late at night and the radio talk shows which are going off the air have been a source of great stimulation. It's possible that the Union of Local Authorities may try to intervene. Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Hulda'i, who were talking to each other last Thursday night on Amnon Pe'er's Laila Hai M'od ("A Very Lively Evening"), bemoaned the fact that the show, which has been on the air for 15 years, is about to be canned. They agreed to do everything they could to have it reinstated, including recruiting fellow mayors for the cause. Department heads at the IBA have been holding meetings with the employees for whom they are responsible, but as yet have not been able to spell out much that is definite, other than to say that those people who are left on staff will have to take pay cuts and an additional work load. The only good news is that the basic salary will be increased to compensate for loss of perks, and that if the Treasury does honor its commitments, there will be sufficient funds for all IBA technology to move into the 21st century. Few if any people know exactly who will be leaving, or when they will be leaving, and the uncertainty is beginning to take its toll.