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The Teachers Union has instructed all elementary and junior high school principals belonging to it to boycott seminars or conferences scheduled for the summer vacation - an order likely to hinder preparations for the new school year that begins on September 1.

"The principals deserve to have their vacation respected by the Education Ministry and the local authorities," union secretary general Yossi Wasserman explained in a statement.

The Association of Secondary School Teachers has also ordered its teachers and principals to boycott seminars and conferences, as it is locked in a labor dispute with the education and finance ministries.

In a letter sent on Tuesday to the Education Ministry's regional directors and municipal educational officials, Wasserman wrote that "all education workers, including principals, are entitled to a summer vacation from July 1 to August 31. But for many years, principals have been required to work during this vacation, with no compensation whatsoever. This year, [the authorities] went overboard and began summoning principals to conferences and seminars, to file work plans and more as of July 1."

A principal who backs Wasserman's stance explained, "We understand that it's necessary to work even during the summer vacation, because there's no choice. But at least compensate us for it. For instance, they could decide that principals should work until July 15 and from August 15 - and receive an extra month's salary for it."

Another principal agreed: "The Education Ministry and the local authorities think they control my free time, during a vacation to which we are entitled by law. We're asked to finish assigning teachers, register new students, attend seminars and even take delivery of office equipment ... Other public-sector workers get paid for working during vacation. We're sick of working for free."

Meanwhile, the secondary school teachers group recently began telling its teachers to come to school only at 9 A.M., to protest the fact that their collective work agreement expired in December, though a new one has yet to be signed. The Education Ministry said it will dock the strikers' wages.

The union has also instituted various other sanctions, such as refusing to administer standardized assessment tests, hold teachers' meetings (including those meant to determine students' grades ) and participate in extracurricular activities.