High schools across Israel to strike Sunday

High schools across Israel to strike Sunday

Demanding better pay, teachers' union says state must 'stop burying its head in the sand'; Finance Ministry claims labor action driven by internal union politics

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

Israeli high schools will be closed on Sunday as teachers stage a one-day strike demanding higher salaries, the teachers’ union announced Friday.

“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.

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.”

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

In a statement to media, the Education Ministry insisted that high schools will open normally on Sunday despite the strike.

It a statement the ministry also said, “We are 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 that it had been negotiating for the past several months over a salary increase for teachers and to improve their conditions of employment, particularly for new teachers.

“It should be stressed that these 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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