Israel's Labor Federation Threatens Strike Over Netanyahu's Public Broadcaster Deal

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Histadrut Labor Federation chief Avi Nissenkorn, March 2017.
Histadrut Labor Federation chief Avi Nissenkorn, last month. Says workers of Kan and the IBA are being pitted against one another.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Following a number of isolated protests on other issues, Israel's Histadrut labor federation has declared a nationwide labor dispute, ostensibly triggered by events surrounding the establishment, or non-establishment, of a public broadcasting corporation. The new national entity was supposed to replace the moribund Israel Broadcasting Authority.

The umbrella organization of labor unions condemned the fact that no one in the government thought to consult with its representatives before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon reached their compromise on the corporation, called Kan, last Thursday.

Public broadcasting is undergoing a comprehensive reform, and the planned changes are far-reaching and have serious implications for labor relations, workers' rights and job security, the Histadrut declared – yet decisions have been and are being made without consultation with labor officials.

The Histadrut cited concern over the abuse of the rights of government employees – both those from the IBA, which is supposed to be phased out, and of Kan, whose news division is being dismantled as per the compromise struck Netanyahu and Kahlon.

While Histadrut head Avi Nissenkorn did not elaborate on his position with respect to public broadcasting, or what the federation's precise demands will be, he said that at present the workers of the two enterprises are being pitted against one another. In addition, he reiterated his rejection of the government's use of workers hired on a temporary, contractual basis.

Regarding public broadcast, the Histadrut is between a rock and a hard place, since it represents workers at both the IBA (which is at least in part being fazed out) and Kan (due to open, minus its news department). Nissenkorn has been criticized for this problematic situation, and has yet to disclose how he thinks the problems of public broadcasting in Israel should be resolved.

During the last two weeks, there have been isolated labor disruptions at various government bodies, including quite a few of the ministries, at the Israel Tax Authority, in the rabbinical courts, and more. Now the labor dispute is being expanded to encompass all government bodies and companies.

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