Compromise ends threat of university strike
University student organizations have called off the strike that was to have affected all institutions of higher education starting today after signing an agreement last night with Education Minister Yuli Tamir, but the Secondary School Teachers Association is going ahead with a strike today.
Classes are cancelled for grades 10-12 in six-year (combined middle- and high) schools, as well as grades 9-12 in the country's four-year high schools. Primary and middle schools, as well as classes taught by Teachers Federation members, will not be affected.
Most of the university students' demands were rejected, including the continued reduction of tuition fees in accordance with the recommendations of the 2001 Winograd Committee. One of the students' main demands was for a 25-percent reduction in tuition fees. However, fees will remain at their present annual rate of NIS 8,588 for one year. The students' demand that the Shochat Committee on higher education be disbanded was also turned down, but the composition of its sub-committee on tuition fees will be changed.
Senior university faculty organizations are attempting to reach a compromise that would head off a threatened strike by lecturers. The teaching faculty opposes the Shochat Committee's apparent intention to severely limit the number of lecturers hired on personal contracts. Union representatives will meet with Tamir today on the issue.
In the past several days representatives of the teachers union have been meeting with university presidents, who support re strictions on the use of personal contracts, and with committee chairman Avraham Shochat.
"We hope to reach agreements that will permit us not to strike in the course of the semester," faculty union head Prof. Zvi Hacohen said.
At a joint press conference held last night by Tamir and student representatives in Tel Aviv, the cost of the agreement between the students and the government was given as NIS 150 million. Although the students did not obtain the 25-percent tuition reduction that was a major point in their platform, they did reach an agreement according to which tuition fees in private colleges will, starting next year, benefit from fee cuts similar to those enacted at public post-secondary institutions.
Four student representatives will be added to the Shochat sub-committee on university tuition fees. Student organizations had previously boycotted the Shochat Committee.