Teachers, Treasury reach new wage agreement after high schoolers stay home

High school staff to receive advance for salary boost, will stop sanctions that saw them withhold grades and halt extracurricular activities

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

File: Keshet high school students take their mathematics matriculation examination (Bagrut), in Tel Aviv, June 29, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
File: Keshet high school students take their mathematics matriculation examination (Bagrut), in Tel Aviv, June 29, 2020. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

The Education Ministry and Secondary School Teachers’ Association on Tuesday announced they had reached a fresh agreement on wages, a week after educators accused the government of failing to live up to a previous deal that prevented a strike at the start of the school year.

The agreement would end teachers’ sanctions on high school activities in the wake of their accusations. A student strike in protest of those sanctions, called by Israel’s National Student and Youth Council, saw many high schoolers skip school Tuesday.

The sanctions prevent students from receiving grades and affect extracurricular activities and other events, including those related to Holocaust education visits to Poland.

The Secondary School Teachers’ Association said last week it was surprised to learn that an agreed-upon initial increase of NIS 800 ($210) to teachers’ salaries would only be enacted in a few months, sparking a fresh dispute. That increase was part of an agreed-upon NIS 2,000 ($525) salary increase over four years for all teachers.

Under the new agreement, teachers will receive a one-time salary boost of between NIS 1,500 and NIS 2,400 ($390-630) in September depending on their contracts, and these will be deducted from their raises later on, when those come into effect.

As part of Tuesday’s deal, teachers will promise three months without any industrial action to allow time for the original agreement to be signed — which itself includes a clause promising no strikes for six and a half years.

Education Minister Yoav Kisch at the education system’s war room in Jerusalem, ahead of the first day of school, August 31, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In the meantime, educators will grant grades and resume extracurricular activities.

Understandings were also reached on the vacation schedule, according to which the days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot festivals will be designated as vacation time.

A one-time grant of NIS 50 million ($13 million) will be given to the Israel Teachers’ Union welfare fund for high school teachers.

The student strike Tuesday saw a near complete absence among 11th and 12th graders, and about half of 10th graders stayed at home, according to a report in the Calcalist business daily.

A National Student and Youth Council spokeswoman told The Times of Israel that the strike affected schools in “every sector,” including secular, religious and Arab.

The council in a statement praised the new deal after facing grade sanctions and the cancelation of trips last year.

Education Minister Yoav Kisch also hailed the agreement. “The sanctions and threats of the strike have been lifted, and the Education Ministry is returning to routine,” he said.

Teachers and ministry officials negotiated down to the wire to ensure the opening of the 2023-2024 school year on September 1.

It marked the second year in a row that a strike was averted at the last moment, after a separate teachers union that represents elementary and middle school teachers nearly delayed the start of the 2022-2023 school year, before the Treasury agreed to raise their salaries too.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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