The Secondary School Teachers' Association (SSTA) plans to go on strike in the middle of next week as part of its struggle to reach a new wage agreement.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir and SSTA Chairman Ran Erez are to meet today in a last-ditch effort to avert the strike. However, both sides have little hope in the chance of finding a solution at the meeting and are preparing for a long strike that could last weeks.

Erez said yesterday that the SSTA will decide on Sunday whether to launch a week-long strike or an open-ended one, and whether to limit the action to certain classes or regions, which would change every few days.

Tamir said yesterday that it would be a mistake to go on strike. She said today's meeting was intended "to explain to Erez and his people why their move is wrong. Erez could lead the association to negotiations instead of a strike, which would harm the pupils and yield no achievements."

The talks between the teachers and education and finance ministries during the past year failed to find a solution to the teachers' demands. At the beginning of the school year the National Labor Court forbade the teachers to strike but allowed them to impose sanctions.

"The finance and education ministries have held no negotiations with us recently," Erez said yesterday. "When we suggested meeting during the interim days of Sukkot we were told that they were on vacation."

"The education minister must take part in trying to solve the dispute, because she has ministerial responsibility. But she doesn't hold the key, the prime minister and finance minister do."

The SSTA is trying to find ways to make it easier for the teachers to strike. One of the banks has agreed to give the teachers interest-free loans as high as their net pay. The SSTA will pay the interest.

The SSTA is also planning to collect NIS 200 from every teacher for three months to open a strike fund, which will help single parents or families in which both parents are teachers. The SSTA will also help teachers find alternative work during the strike months.