Bnei Akiva high school teachers to strike Friday
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Bnei Akiva high school teachers to strike Friday

Yeshivot and Ulpanot throughout Israel to be shuttered as part of ongoing demands for wage increase

Illustrative image of an empty classroom. (Gloda/iStock by Getty images)
Illustrative image of an empty classroom. (Gloda/iStock by Getty images)

High school teachers in the Bnei Akiva Yeshiva and Ulpana system will strike again on Friday as the teachers union continues its dispute with the treasury over better wages, the union said.

The strike was announced by union leaders on Facebook on Thursday as they demand higher salaries and claim the government is procrastinating over talks.

The teachers said they were surprised by the announcement via the media. They also noted that many of their schools will be closed on Friday in any event, ahead of the religious youth movement’s annual festivities to be held this weekend.

Union leader Ran Erez said the union would announce future steps after the next round of negotiations.

Some 20,000 students learn in the more than 60 institutions connected to the Bnei Akiva youth movement, which are spread throughout the country, including in some of the cities where teachers already went on strike twice this week.

Following a nationwide strike on Tuesday, the union continued its strike in a limited fashion. On Wednesday it closed high schools in four cities: Haifa, Acre, Ashdod and Eilat. On Thursday high schools in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Beersheba were closed.

The teachers’ union representing high school staff wants an immediate monthly gross wage increase for starting teachers, from NIS 6,400 ($1,820) to NIS 8,000 ($2,275), along with a comparable raise for teachers with up to seven years experience. In addition, the union said that teachers who have been teaching for eight years or more must receive an extra NIS 600 ($170) a month.

Ran Erez (YouTube screenshot)

Erez said some of the other demands would not cost the Finance Ministry anything, but would improve work conditions for teachers.

The teachers claimed the Finance Ministry is “refusing to reach an agreement in good faith.”

Erez claimed talks with the ministry broke down after it agreed to the wage hike but only on condition it be phased in over the next four years. Since the ministry was not prepared to approve the increase immediately, he said there was no point in further negotiations and no alternative but to strike.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, October 22, 2017. (Alex Kolomoisky)

Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Twitter, “The quality of our children’s education depends on the quality and status of the teachers.

“The salaries of teachers starting today do not allow for a dignified existence and it is difficult to attract excellent people to teach.

“Therefore, the goal I set is a salary of NIS 8,000 for a beginner teacher, and I am convinced that both the Finance Ministry and the organizations will join in.”

The Finance Ministry criticized the union for taking “aggressive measures.”

“It is a pity that instead of trying to reach a compromise by conducting substantive negotiations, the organization chooses to take aggressive measures to the point of disrupting the high schools,” a ministry spokesperson said.

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