Ran Erez drove an entire country insane for two whole months. He spoke about the teachers' status, their low wages and the importance of education and reforms. And what came of it? Nothing. What remained of his high ideals was a minor wage deal that will not alter the grim reality of Israel's education system. And maybe not even that, because last night Erez walked out on talks with the government.
Everybody lost. Teachers lost a substantial pay rise, students lost 3.2 million hours of classes, Education Minister Yuli Tamir cannot claim she carried out reforms during her tenure, and Erez proved he is a difficult and unpredictable person, incapable of reaching a reasonable compromise. Striking for 54 days and then receiving the pay rise promised to Histadrut head Ofer Eini after half a day's strike? It's irresponsible. He does not deserve to be the teachers' leader.
The biggest loser, however, is the education system itself: The emerging deal is not the education revolution required. No hours will be added, the pay rise is negligible and school principals will not gain broader authority. That is why one can be certain that in the next PISA tests Israel will come in 40th place, or worse.
Truth be told, Labor Court President Steve Adler has no idea who he's dealing with. At the start of the hearings, Adler berated Erez and called him a "difficult person."
"Remember how the great strike of '78 ended?" Adler asked. "With a memo instead of a deal? Do you want that scenario to repeat itself?"
Erez listened quietly but must have been thinking yes, I don't want an agreement. I don't want a reform. All I want is to drive everybody insane.
All Erez wanted was a 15 percent pay rise without adding any teaching hours. He refused to understand that such an increase would cause the Histadrut labor federation to go on strike to get a similar increase.
Nor did Erez want to relinquish his control over the education system through his powerful organization. Under the current conditions, no inadequate teacher can be fired to make way for a better one. This mediocrity is sanctified by Erez - it is his organization's very life force, but it is bad for the quality of teachers and the quality of education.
Grassroots reactions show that the teachers are unhappy with the emerging deal. They were certain that after such a long strike and so many harsh words they would get more. That is why their frustration reached the heavens and Erez feared their wrath.
After all, the wage increase is divided into three parts and miniscule - it's hardly distinguishable to the naked eye. Teachers may conclude that Erez's services are no longer required and that a new leader is needed.
Erez understands his errors. He climbed up a tree and then jumped off head first, dragging 40,000 teachers with him.
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