IBA finally completes wage agreements enabling reforms

According to new efficiency measures, nearly 700 employees will be made redundant, but revised severance package is more palatable.

It took three years of negotiations with many threats, false hopes, frustrations and disappointments along the way, but at last the Israel Broadcasting Authority, the Treasury’s wages director, the Histadrut labor federation and the Jerusalem Journalists Association have signed all the necessary papers for the introduction of new wage agreements at the IBA.
This means that the IBA’s much-vaunted reforms can finally be implemented.
In fact, the process took a lot longer. The Treasury had been complaining for more than 20 years about the IBA’s ever-growing deficit.
These complaints were often accompanied by threats of suspension of budgets and the possible demise of public broadcasting unless the IBA introduced drastic efficiency measures.
Committees were set up by various ministers and IBA chairmen responsible for the implementation of the Broadcasting Authority Law to look into ways and means of making the IBA more cost efficient, and the bottom line was always a massive payroll reduction that was strongly resisted by workers and their unions.
It was only in the past year or two when agreements were reached to make severance packages sufficiently attractive to be acceptable, that negotiators were able to make real progress. Even then, there was always some issue that had been overlooked and someone to throw a spoke in the wheel.
But all that is now history.
IBA director-general Moti Sklar has written to MK Carmel Shama-Hacohen, chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, informing him of the signing of the agreements, which in addition to wage structures include rules and regulations for new work conditions for all branches of employment within the IBA.
The agreements also include the efficiency measure whereby 700 IBA employees will be made redundant.
Other clauses cover the acquisition of the latest technical equipment, and the budget of millions of shekels for externally contracted productions. Paying an overall sum for dramas, documentaries, satirical shows, etc. will be less costly for the IBA than paying overtime fees to IBA staff members engaged in such productions, which is one of the reasons that the IBA can afford to reduce its human resources to such a large extent.
Yet with all that has been achieved, Sklar pointed out in his letter, nothing can go ahead without essential amendments to the Broadcasting Authority Law and the final green light of the Finance Ministry, which has to provide the funds for severance pay.
Any delay in funding or in amending the law will prompt a crisis in confidence, Sklar said, adding that 1,900 employees can no longer function on the brink of uncertainty.
Creative forces both inside and outside the IBA have been on hold throughout the period of negotiations, Sklar said.
Copies of the letter have been sent to close to 20 relevant people including Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who took over responsibility for the Broadcasting Authority after Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein gave up the job in February 2010.