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Maariv journalists decided yesterday to organize under the Histadrut labor federation, and will hold a protest meeting late this week at the newspaper's office in Tel Aviv to declare a labor dispute. Under the law, a strike can be called two weeks after a dispute is officially declared.

While the workers negotiated with the union, the latter was already taking steps. The head of the Histadrut's legal department, Shay Teken, called on Maariv's management six weeks ago to begin immediate negotiations on the employment terms of the journalists and content editors. Teken's pleas however were not acted upon.

Teken wrote to the management of Maariv again yesterday to reiterate his demand, in response to journalist concerns that another wave of layoffs is on the horizon, and salaries of remaining workers would be cut by 5% - 20%.

Maariv has been suffering heavy losses for years, hence its efficiency measures. For January-September 2008, Maariv lost NIS 71 million. It owes bondholders NIS 59 million and owes the banks NIS 200 million.