Israel's Labor Federation Vows Strike Next Week Over Broadcast Firings

The strike warning comes less than a month before the IBA is due to be replaced by Kan, the newly formed public broadcasting corporation

Yael Engelhart

The Histadrut labor federation threatened on Tuesday to call a strike of the public sector next week if an agreement is not reached over the future of Israel Broadcasting Authority staff members who are slated for dismissal when the agency closes next month.

“Over the past several weeks a cynical and painful game has been played on the backs of the workers on whose behalf we declared a labor dispute in the public sector,” Histadrut Chairman Avi Nissenkorn warned.

“We have to put an end to this painful affair, and if a solution isn’t found by next Tuesday there will be a public-sector strike next Tuesday.”

The strike warning comes less than a month before the IBA is due to be replaced by Kan, the newly formed public broadcasting corporation. Kan will go on the air without a news division, however, under a deal reached this month between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Netanyahu has been fighting to retain the IBA and to scrap Kan, reportedly out of concern that Kan’s news division would be hostile to him and his policies. Kahlon backed Kan, creating a coalition crisis last month that was only resolved by a compromise: Kan would go on the air on May 15 without a news and public affairs division, which would be spun off into a separate government company and begin broadcasts at a later date.

The new news corporation will absorb 160 former IBA employees, who had already been transferred to Kan’s abortive news unit, plus 100 new hires from Kan. However, the total number of IBA staff to be taken on by the new news corporation remains unclear – prompting Nissenkorn’s strike threat.

Adding to the confusion, all this appears in a draft law that has yet to win Knesset approval.

The strike threat is also connected with Histadrut elections slated for May 23, where Nissenkorn faces a challenge from the Zionist Union lawmaker Shelly Yacimovich.

On Tuesday, Yacimovich accused her rival of “new heights of cynicism” by waiting until now to issue a strike warning and accused of already agreeing to the IBA firings as part of the original broadcast reform plan in 2014.

“The threat of a strike and the mock campaign for the workers is aimed at distracting everyone from the disgrace of the deal he made, which allowed the IBA to be closed and its employees fired,” she said.