Hundreds of Maariv Workers Demonstrate Against Newspaper's Imminent Closure

Demonstrators block Tel Aviv junctions, burn tires, in protest of the expected layoffs of some 2,000 employees.

Hundreds of Maariv journalists demonstrated Tuesday morning outside the newspapers offices in Tel Aviv, against the expected layoffs of some 2,000 employees.

The journalists, who blocked the traffic on Begin Road, said they were fearful that they will not receive severance packages since their employer has probably refrained from transferring payments in recent years.

"No layoffs, without compensation," and "Hello Nochi, where's our money today?" – a direct reference to the papers owner, Nochi Dankner - were among the slogans chanted by the demonstrators. Twelve police cars arrived on the scene after the roads were blocked.

Journalist Guy Meroz, who has worked for Maariv for the past 13 years, said that if the newspaper will indeed be closed, it will be a huge tragedy – 2,000 people will be sent home. Referring to reports that said the paper refrained from transferring payment to pension funds, Meroz said that the workers must "approach the present and past owners of Maariv and demand that they returned the damages funds; if necessary, we can also appeal to the government."

According to a statement made on Tuesday by one of Dankners associates, all the money raised by selling the newspaper, including the land in Bat Yam, will be used for the workers' pensions."

Sources close to the intended purchaser, Shlomo Ben-Zvi, along with Maariv senior management denied rumors that the deal was off. "The negotiations have reached advanced stages, said one of Ben-Zvis associates, adding that there are ups and downs - the next 24 hours are crucial. Maarivs general director, Tal Raz, told demonstrators that "if the deal won't be closed and done by the end of the day, we'll try to find other alternatives to keep the newspaper alive."

Raz also addressed the problem of the damages and partial payment of salaries. "This isn't a problem that began now, you must give us time to quietly help you there are understandings with the banks as to the August salaries, and we're trying to solve that issue before the holidays."

Referring to the Ben-Zvi deal, Raz added that "if the deal comes through, the printing house will continue to operate and the distribution will continue. Ben-Zvi is willing to employ 400 workers at this stage. The deal isn't closed yet, but it isn't off, either." Raz said that the management would meet with the Maariv worker's union before the deal is signed.

Mondays reports revealed that the newspaper's situation was worse than reported, and that expected revenues were lower than hoped for.

Following the audit, Ben-Zvi demanded to pay a significantly lower price than the originally agreed price of NIS 85 million. Yesterday the two sides and their attorneys met to discuss the issue. They  agreed that should the deal would come through, Ben-Zvi would keep between 300-400 employees, who would be fired, and then re-hired.

Maariv workers demonstration
Alon Ron