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Teachers plan one-day strike next week as talks with Finance Ministry crash

Union yet to decide when to hold walkout at kindergartens and elementary schools; educators accuse treasury representatives of coming ‘unprepared’ to talks

Yaffa Ben-David, head of the Israel Teachers Union at a protest by teachers demanding better pay and working conditions in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Yaffa Ben-David, head of the Israel Teachers Union at a protest by teachers demanding better pay and working conditions in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Israel Teachers Union said Thursday that it was planning to hold a one-day strike next week as talks with the Finance Ministry over wages and employment terms collapsed, Channel 13 News reported.

The disruption is part of an ongoing struggle by the union for better pay and working conditions.

A decision has not yet been made on which day the strike will be called. The strike will include kindergartens and elementary schools. Although schools are scheduled to finish the year at the end of next week, middle schools will finish the term earlier on Monday. If the strike is called for Sunday or Monday then middle schools will also be shuttered.

Earlier in the day union and Finance Ministry representatives met for talks but made no progress.

The ministry said in a statement to Channel 13 that the union “is not prepared to significantly prioritize young teachers” or discuss other changes “to advance the education system.”

Ministry sources told Channel 13 that Israel Teachers Union chair Yaffa Ben David had just “screamed and shouted” at the meeting without trying to negotiate.

Ben David, in an interview with the station, said that the ministry representatives had arrived “unprepared” and without any figures to present for discussion.

Ben David said she would hold consultations later in the evening and assured that next week the union would step up measures, even to the point of an all-out strike.

The threat came after schools and kindergartens in Tel Aviv opened late at 10 a.m. on Thursday as part of rolling ongoing sanctions by the union.

Schools were shuttered in the southern region of Israel on Wednesday morning as part of the union’s campaign.

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 shrink the pay gap between veterans and new teachers by setting wages according to competence, as opposed to experience.

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, according to Ynet, which said that some longtime teachers are only earning NIS 7,500 ($2,235) a month.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman has also proposed that the number of vacation days in the school system be adjusted to come closer to the number of vacation days offered to other workers, in a bid to ease the pressure on working parents.

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