MaarivIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Employees of daily newspaper Maariv held an emergency meeting Sunday following the announcement Friday that the paper's owner, Nochi Dankner, has sold it to the owner of the nationalist Makor Rishon newspaper, Shlomo Ben-Tzvi.

The workers have asked labor federation Histadrut for permission to declare a formal labor dispute. Employees said that they heard from media reports that the deal involves the laying off of 1,600 employees.

"The employees are the ones who make the newspaper and therefore we demand full involvement in the negotiations, so that we can defend our rights," said the head of the Maariv journalists' union, Haggai Matar. "In addition, we demand that the August salaries be paid in full by the eve of Rosh Hashana."

It is not yet known whether the Ben-Tzvi will merge Maariv and Makor Rishon into a single newspaper or continue to produce both separately. Ben-Tzvi is considered a staunch supporter of Moshe Feiglin's "Jewish Leadership" faction in Likud. He is seen as a rival of Sheldon Adelson, who owns free daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom. The two were partners in the now-defunct free newspaper Yisraeli but are now embroiled in a court battle.