Parents of infants and toddlers were able to send their children to state-supervised daycare centers Monday, after a strike by caregivers was called off following marathon overnight talks.
An agreement between organizations which run the daycare centers and the Finance and Welfare ministers was reached by which daycare staff will get a NIS 1,500 ($415) bonus over the coming holiday period and a similar bonus over the week-long Passover holiday which falls in April 2019.
Some 80,000 children from 3 months to 3 years of age had stayed at home Sunday as the centers refused to open for the first day of school. The one-day strike had been called by several organizations employing over 10,000 daycare workers at state-subsidized centers. Among those who took part in the strike were Na’amat, Wizo, Emunah as well as dozens of other smaller organizations.
Under the agreement, the bonuses will come from a specially allocated Finance Ministry fund. Budgeting will also be provided to assist staff and enable them to focus on educational and therapeutic work at the centers.
In addition, a government committee led by the Welfare Ministry is to be established to review and improve the conditions in daycare centers and the number of staff per child. The committee will look at standardizing daycare centers and will present its findings, along with goals for implementation, by April 30, 2019.
Under the terms of the agreement the Welfare Ministry agreed to simplify staff training to streamline the hiring process and bring more caregivers on board.
The agreement will “improve the quality of treatment for infants and correct an injustice for the care providers,” Welfare Minister Haim Katz said.
Israel lags behind the rest of the developed world in the number of caregivers for childcare centers. The average of OECD countries is one care worker for every four children whereas in Israel the ratio is six to 11 infants per caregiver, depending on the age group, according to the Ynet news website.
Finance Ministry officials told Hadashot news that the strike could have been avoided had the groups agreed to the same terms when it was offered to them last week.