Schools nationwide again open late Monday, as teachers continue strikes

Union says labor action continues after finance officials failed to meet its demands

Illustrative: An empty classroom at Cramim school in Beit Hakerem, Jerusalem, on October 21, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Illustrative: An empty classroom at Cramim school in Beit Hakerem, Jerusalem, on October 21, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Classes for around 2 million children opened late at 10 a.m. on Monday for the second day in a row, as teachers continued their strike action, due to a salary dispute between their union and the Finance Ministry.

The partial strike continued to cover all kindergartens, elementary schools, and middle schools across the country, but not special education institutions, the Israel Teachers Union announced.

The first nationwide 8-10 a.m. strike on Sunday came after teachers carried out a series of two-hour strikes in different areas of the country last week.

The union said Monday’s strike was decided upon after Finance Ministry officials came to a meeting unprepared and without a proposed budget to meet its demands.

“The Teachers’ Union continues to impose sanctions in the face of the contempt and disregard by government ministers and the finance minister and ministry officials,” the union said in a statement.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference at the Ministry of Finance offices in Jerusalem, ahead of a teachers’ union’s planned strike, clarifying what the Finance Ministry demands in the negotiations with the union, May 29, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“Only a salary agreement will prevent abandonment [of the profession] that will lead to the collapse of the education system. The union announced in recent days that sanctions will not stop until finance officials put a relevant proposal on the table.”

Union chief Yaffa Ben-David said that if the government were willing to end the strike, they would be able to do so “in a moment,” calling on officials to return to the negotiating table.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Saturday night that he believed the two sides would reach an agreement, as talks remain deadlocked.

Secretary-general of the Teachers Union Yaffa Ben-David attends a Knesset Education, Culture, and Sports Committee meeting ahead of the opening of the new school year, August 5, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

At the heart of the tug-of-war lies planned Finance Ministry reforms to reduce the power of the Teachers Union, including allowing principals to fire staff without union intervention and to shrink the pay gap between veteran and new teachers.

The union is demanding that new teachers earn a monthly salary of NIS 10,000 ($2,981) as well as a meaningful increase in experienced teachers’ salaries.

Last month, Ben-David warned that the gradual erosion of teachers’ salaries has put the entire education system at risk of collapse.

“Many educators have already left the system and many more intend to do so by the end of this year,” Ben-David said at the time.

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