The education minister will meet the high school teachers' union chairman today in a last-ditch effort to avert the general strike in secondary schools, which is scheduled to start tomorrow.

But neither side last night expected the meeting to prevent the strike, which the Secondary Schools Teachers' Association had declared last week.

The two parties will discuss Education Minister Yuli Tamir's proposal to continue the talks on two tracks. The first, which is to last for several months, will be aimed at drafting an agreed reform in secondary education. The second is intended to reach an agreement on an immediate wage increment.

The teachers' union chair Ran Erez said he had lowered his initial demand for a 20 percent raise to 15 percent.

Erez said that even if an agreement on a wage rise is reached in today's meeting, "the education minister would have to persuade the Finance Ministry to pay it, and after that probably the prime minister. In the best case scenario, this process will last a week or two. We refuse to wait any longer, therefore we will start the strike tomorrow."

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said yesterday he had no intention of giving the teachers wage raises.

Erez said Bar-On should be "commended for finally telling the truth - the treasury has and never had any intention of giving the teachers pay rises. Apparently the finance minister is acting against the education minister. While she is making efforts to find a solution to the crisis, he announces there will be no raises."

The union has been battling with the treasury and the Education Ministry for a year over a new collective wage agreement.