17 academic colleges call strike amid wage dispute

17 academic colleges call strike amid wage dispute

Labor action comes a week before the opening of school year; senior staff want pay to match universities

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative image of an empty college lecture room. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)
Illustrative image of an empty college lecture room. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

Teachers at over a dozen academic colleges declared a strike Wednesday after failing to reach an agreement with the Finance Ministry and the Council for Higher Education in a wage dispute.

Seventeen colleges are affected by the open-ended strike, which comes a week before the start of the academic year.

The public college system, set up in the 1990s, focuses on educating students without also conducting the kind of research that pulls in money for universities.

The strike came after months of negotiations between senior staff at the colleges and the Council of Higher Education’s budgeting committee together with the Finance Ministry, which helps fund the colleges.

A coordinating council of college lecturers announced the strike at press conference.

Anat Feldman, chair of the Coordinating Council of Public Academic College Senior Staff, said that the Finance Ministry and Higher Education Council have “dragged their feet for 10 months in negotiations.”

“I call on the finance minister and the education minister to immediately become involved in order to resolve the current crisis to enable the academic year to open as usual,” Feldman said in a Channel 2 report.

The Committee of Heads of Public Academic Colleges said in a statement that it supports its lecturers’ actions “and identifies with their goal.”

At the center of the dispute is a demand by college senior staff for a wage increase that would bring their pay in line with that of university professors. According to a Tuesday report from Haaretz, the Finance Ministry has offered a 9% wage increase over the next six years, a similar plan to one that was agreed with senior university staff. College staff are demanding more as their wages are lower than those holding equivalent positions at universities.

Public academic colleges aim to make higher education more accessible, particularly in periphery communities. There are 36 academic colleges and 23 teachers’ colleges in the country. Over 55,000 students are enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs — more than the number of university students studying for their bachelor’s degrees.

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