School Year to Open as Planned, as Labor Court Revokes Looming School Strike

In late-night debate, court rules strike declared by Secondary School Teachers' Association unlawful, ordering its members to refrain from disrupting school year opening.

The National Labor Court issued an injunction early Wednesday morning against the a strike declared the previous day by the Secondary School Teachers' Association, thus lifting the threat of disruptions to the newly opened school year.

Israeli high school students taking matriculation exams, April 4, 2009

The planned one-day warning strike would have affected grades 7-12 in the 1,200 junior high and high schools whose teachers are among the union's 40,000 members.

The strike, announced by the SSTA to protest the lack of progress in contract talks and the expansion of an educational reform program, was deemed unlawful by the court following over four hours of deliberations and consultations.

"The declared strike is illegal," the National Labor Court judges wrote in their late-night ruling, ordering the SSTA to act on the injunction, and "have all its members facilitate studies in junior highs and high schools, and refrain from sanctions or disruptions to the opening of the school year."

The judges also expressed their disapproval of the SSTA's decision to announce the strike through the media without first notifying the relevant establishments and employers."

SSTA head, Ran Erez, said in response to the ruling that the organization would "weigh its steps further on."

Some schools in Ashdod and Givatayim, however, will be striking Tuesday, as a result of local disputes.

Employees at Na'amat daycare centers are also striking Tuesday, after declaring a one-day warning strike to protest their low wages. The strike will affect 18,000 children between the ages of six months and three years.

The heads of the SSTA decided Tuesday afternoon on its strike, to protest the absence of negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement. The union's teachers have been working without a contract since December. Representatives from the SSTA and the finance and education ministries have met a few times, but no real progress was made.

The other bone of contention is the Education Ministry's desire to expand the New Horizon reform program to additional junior high schools, including ones with teachers who belong to the Secondary School Teachers' Association. That organization, in contrast to the Teachers' Union, has opposed the reform from the outset.

Last week the National Labor Court prohibited the SSTA from striking or otherwise interfering with studies in connection to its opposition to the New Horizon program, but made no mention of protest action over other issues. The court did rule that the union's members have the right to oppose the reform.

"Not only does the government crush the teachers and refuse to talk with us about a new collective bargaining agreement, but the Education Ministry also makes promises that it doesn't keep," SSTA chairman Erez said Tuesday. "Last summer [Education] Minister Gideon Sa'ar promised that any school in which a majority of its teachers don't want to be in the reform program would not be included in New Horizon, but for the past few months he's been saying that he can't keep his promises."

Erez said Sa'ar also backtracked on understandings reached with the union late last year, adding, "We have reached the conclusion that the Education Ministry is being run by the State Prosecutor's Office and petty officials in the Education Ministry."