University staffs call strike over pay dispute with institutions, Finance Ministry

Senior faculty declare ‘warning’ action, saying they see effective wage cut from inflation, economic uncertainty; say other side ‘dragging feet’

Students at Hebrew University on the first day of the academic year on October 23, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Students at Hebrew University on the first day of the academic year on October 23, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Educators at the country’s top universities announced Thursday that they will start a series of strikes on May 1 as a warning ahead of further potential action amid a dispute over pay.

The Coordinating Council of Senior Academic Staff announced that the strike was called due to an “impasse in the negotiations regarding the salary agreement, which is being undertaken in bad faith and in an unacceptable manner.”

The organization said that in the days following the Monday strike, rolling strikes will take place across educational institutions — University of Haifa and the Technion will remain shut on Tuesday; the Weizmann Institute, Tel Aviv University and Bar Ilan University won’t hold classes on Wednesday; and on Thursday, the strike will move to Jerusalem’s Hebrew University and Beersheba’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Prof. Anat Zeira, head of the council, said that after the collective wage agreement ended in 2019, “it seems that the universities and the Finance Ministry do not want to sign a new agreement.”

According to Zeira, economic conditions meant that the salaries of lecturers have effectively been reduced by 8.75 percent since the agreement ended, with further erosion expected in the future.

“The erosion has become even more significant in view of the increasing inflation and the economic uncertainty that characterizes the current period,” she said.

Students at Tel Aviv University on the first day of the academic year, October 14, 2018 (Flash90)

Zeira said that faculty representatives had not yet received a budget framework, a condition for the start of the negotiations, and that the other side was “dragging its feet.”

According to the statement, faculty had been told that they would get a similar agreement to the one signed between the Finance Ministry and the Histadrut labor federation last month, in which a new public sector wage agreement will see government workers get an 11% raise over the next four years. In return, the union will guarantee industrial quiet until 2027 and state employers will be granted the ability to “improve service to the citizen through the introduction of technology and worker mobility,” an apparent move to water down worker protection laws.

The university strikes will kick off on May 1, which is International Workers’ Day, a key event for the international labor movement and workers’ rights.

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