Some 250 teachers in a nationwide program for high school dropouts are striking on Tuesday to protest a deal that allows them to work as subcontracted workers without the same benefits or job security as other teachers.
This is the widest-ranging strike to be staged by the subcontracted teachers, who filed notice of a work dispute in October. It will affect 6,000 students attending 23 education centers for at-risk youth in cities including Afula, Eilat, Lod, Netanya and Ra'anana.
"Putting the employment terms of teachers entirely in the hands of a subcontractor is inconceivable," the teachers said in a statement. "This program is designed to help youths who have dropped out of high schools, and enables them to make up lost school time and to prepare for matriculation exams."
The teachers are employed by the Israel Association of Community Centers rather than the Education Ministry, so the ministry is not compelled to pay them during school vacations or pay them anything other than the low hourly rates they receive.
The teachers say the association has refused to discuss improving their work conditions and the Education Ministry has been overly reluctant to get involved.
As it is, nearly a third of the teachers in the program quit every year.
Some 10,000 teachers in Israel are employed on a privatized, subcontracted basis. Teachers in the at-risk program are the first to stage a strike.
"The Association of Community Centers claims that its hands are tied under the terms of the concession agreement it won, and on the other hand, the Education Ministry ignores us since we are not employed by it," said Oren Shlomo, a geography teacher who works in the program.
The ministry said in a statement that it is "attentive to the needs of teachers in this program, and continually monitors the terms of employment given to them, and works to protect their rights in accord with the concession rights that have been granted."
The ministry said it has formed a professional team to review terms of a new concession agreement for the employment of teachers in this program.
"This task force has the goal of setting policy regarding the employment of subcontracted workers in the educational system," the ministry said, adding that the task force has yet to finish its review.
The Association of Community Centers said the program operates under the terms of the concession agreement awarded by the Education Ministry. "Should the Education Ministry decide to institute changes in the concession's terms, the association will take steps to implement them," it said in a statement.
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