The Israel Teacher’s Union on Friday called off a nationwide strike at high schools planned for next week after receiving a promise from the Education Ministry it would advance legislation to tackle violence by students against teaching staff.
The teachers had vowed to strike after an incident last week when a pupil in the southern region Bedouin town of Tel Sheva attacked a teacher with a wooden pole, causing him to lose consciousness and necessitating hospital treatment. A complaint was filed with police.
In a letter announcing the cancellation of the strike, the director of the Teacher’s Union Ran Erez said the decision was made after he received a written assurance from Shmuel Abuav, the director-general of the Education Ministry, that the Knesset would fast-track the passage of legislation that would classify teachers as civil servants. The status would increase the severity of crimes against them.
“I welcome the director-general’s obligation to eliminate violence and demand the Education Ministry act decisively and with a strong hand against anyone who acts violently towards a teacher in Israel,” said Erez.
“The Teacher’s Union will continue to uphold the status of teachers and their rights and will faithfully follow after the implementation of the ministry’s obligations on the matter,” he added.
Teachers were already holding sporadic daylong strikes at selected high schools around the country in a separate demand for higher wages.
In the past, teachers have held local strikes following incidents of classroom violence, but after Wednesday’s assault the union said it intended to take its campaign up a notch.
Following the announcement, Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) said he would work to increase the severity of the punishments against those who attack teachers, including with prison terms of up to five years and the expulsion of offending students from their schools, Channel 10 reported.
The teachers’ union 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.
While Bennett has given his support to the teachers’ demand for a better starting wage, the Finance Ministry is less willing to adopt the plan and has been negotiating a compromise.
Stuart Winer contributed to this report.