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Teachers reject Treasury proposal to end strikes: ‘Worse’ than existing conditions

Offer of NIS 9,000 significantly improves starting wages, but also increases working hours; union accuses treasury of manipulating numbers

Teachers protest outside the home of Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Monday, June 28, 2022. (Courtesy Israel Teachers Union)
Teachers protest outside the home of Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Monday, June 28, 2022. (Courtesy Israel Teachers Union)

The Teacher’s Union rejected on Monday a Finance Ministry proposal aimed at ending teachers’ strikes that have been ongoing on and off for months, saying the Treasury was manipulating the numbers.

The proposal marked an end to a month-long freeze of the negotiations after the union rejected an offer made by the ministry in June.

But the union said Monday the new proposal tabled was “even worse than the current situation,” adding that it will continue fighting for a monthly starting wage of NIS 10,000 ($2,900).

According to a statement issued by the Finance Ministry, the offer included raising the starting wage of new teachers in their first year to NIS 9,000 ($2,650) — a 30% increase from what they currently receive.

Furthermore, teachers would be eligible for a NIS 18,000 grant after 3 years on the job.

School principals would be given more flexibility and could form new positions according to the specific needs of their school. Teachers who will be chosen to fill the new positions will be given a NIS 600 bonus.

The starting wage of principals will be raised to NIS 18,000 and they will receive an additional NIS 2,000 per month if they fill other jobs such as teaching, according to the suggested reform.

In return, teachers would see their work hours raised to increase the minimum number of work hours for a teacher from 50% of a full-time position to 70%.

There would also be a loss of five vacation days for students and teachers in a bid to ease the load on working parents.

But the offer did not seem to impress the union’s negotiation team, which claimed the ministry was trying to manipulate numbers in its favor.

“Unfortunately, the meeting was over before it started, again,” the Teacher’s Union said in a statement.

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

“Treasury officials continue to make offers that drastically hurt teachers, while trying to manipulate the numbers. Under such conduct, they continue to deepen the crisis within Israel’s education system and cast a doubt on the opening of the next school year on time,” the statement added.

The union added that gaps between the sides remain great and urged Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman to intervene.

After last month’s negotiations failed, the ministry said it would require the union to suggest improvements before any wage agreement.

“If we offer higher salaries without receiving changes that benefit the system, it may set a precedent for other industries the ministry needs to sign wage agreements with,” a Treasury official said at the time.

At the time, the Finance Ministry also accused Teacher’s Union chief Yaffa Ben-David of not being willing to compromise enough.

Teachers have been fighting for higher wages and better working conditions. The repeated strikes have wreaked havoc across the Israeli education system, with parents pressuring both sides to reach a deal.

Yaffa Ben-David, left, speaks at a conference in Jerusalem on February 11, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90); Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on June 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry warned Sunday that some 5,600 teaching positions remain unfilled ahead of the coming school year on September 1.

The shortage is felt most strongly in Tel Aviv and central Israel, where schools are lacking nearly 3,500 teachers, according to data published by the ministry. Other regions are dealing with staff shortages in the hundreds.

Elementary schools are facing a shortfall of 424 English teachers and 250 science teachers, while special education schools and kindergartens are facing shortages of 1,103 staff, the ministry added. There were also roughly 460 unfilled science teaching positions.

Data uncovered by Haaretz daily found that more teachers left the field after last year compared to previous years. The number of college students pursuing teaching degrees also dropped from 13,500 during the 2020-2021 academic year to 11,400 the following year.

And data published in March by the Central Bureau of Statistics revealed a 12 percent drop in new teachers this past school year.

Also Sunday, subsidized daycare centers in Israel threatened to remain closed during the upcoming school year, accusing the state of “neglecting preschool education for years.”

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