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Plans for a high school strike next week are still in force, after Education Minister Yuli Tamir failed yesterday to persuade the head of the Secondary School Teachers Association, Ran Erez, to call it off.

The association yesterday submitted its reply to the National Labor Court regarding the request by the Education and Finance Ministries, as well as the Union of Local Authorities, for an injunction to prevent the strike.

"Preventing the possibility of exerting pressure on the state is tantamount to a direct violation of 40,000 teachers' freedom of assembly," the teachers wrote in their response, adding that "the petitioners do not have a single pertinent argument against the strike."

Erez said he had not expected much from the meeting with Tamir. "The education minister is not authorized to sign a new wage agreement. She said that she tried to persuade the treasury to accommodate us, but without success," he explained. "The government doesn't understand that if we enter into a tough battle, it will be impossible to return the teachers to work for the relatively small sums we're asking for now. After the fight, the price will only go up."

Both sides have exchanged accusations that the other party is stubbornly sticking to its guns and is responsible for the breakdown in negotiations. The court is expected to deliberate the matter in the next few days.