Teachers shut high schools across Israel in one-day strike

Teachers shut high schools across Israel in one-day strike

Union wants monthly raise of NIS 600-800 for teachers, says Finance Ministry is offering a tenth of that

Illustrative photo of an empty school classroom. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an empty school classroom. (Mendy Hechtman/Flash90)

Israeli high schools were closed for one day Sunday as teachers staged a one-day strike demanding higher salaries.

“The Union of Secondary School Teachers announces that due to the procrastination and lack of progress being made by the Finance and Education Ministries in the negotiations on the wage agreement in secondary education, all secondary education will be suspended this Sunday in a one-day warning strike,” the group said in a Friday statement.

The union said that further steps would be decided on Sunday following meetings with the ministries.

Ran Erez, head of the union, said “the State must stop burying its head in the sand and must invest in the future of teaching and in the future of the students of Israel.”

Erez said Sunday that he sought 600-800 shekel monthly pay raises for teachers, and that the Treasury was offering a tenth of that sum.

Israeli teachers protest in front of the Ministry of Education in Tel Aviv on October 19, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Education Ministry said it was “continuing to conduct intensive negotiations with the teachers’ union to ensure that teachers in Israel receive a salary commensurate with their professional status.”

The Finance Ministry said on Friday that it was negotiating salary increases for teachers, and improved employment conditions, particularly for new teachers.

“It should be stressed that these [new] teachers earn about a third of what veteran teachers earn, which is one of the highest discrepancies among OECD countries, and the gap continues to grow,” the ministry said.

However, it blamed the union for the impasse in negotiations.

“Many proposals were put on the table for the teachers’ union [to consider], but it rejected them all,” the ministry said. “We regret that the teachers’ union chooses to hurt Israeli students instead of [engaging in] concrete discussions about the proposals that were put forward.”

Officials in the Finance Ministry told Hadashot Online news that Erez had intentionally sabotaged the negotiations for one reason: “It’s election season in the union and he wants to show that he is worth something and is flexing his muscles to justify his position,” they said.

Before the school year began in September, Erez had told the Ynet news site that the ministry had proposed a gross wage increase of just NIS 30 ($8.50) per month for veteran teachers and NIS 300 ($85) for new teachers. Before the strike was declared the ministry proposed an increase of NIS 60 ($17) for veteran teachers, but that too was rejected by Erez.

Discussions between the sides are continuing and some exceptions have been made to the strike. Parents should check with their children’s school on Sunday morning.

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