Senior faculty at Ariel University in the West Bank say the academic year will not start in six weeks if a new wage agreement is not signed. The professors want their salaries and conditions equal to that of their colleagues at other universities.
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The university said the talks between the two sides were going on “in a good atmosphere.”
About two years ago a collective wage agreement was signed with the faculties of all colleges, including Ariel, which late last year gained university status. The agreement contained a clause stating that for Ariel, the accord would lapse six months after the college became a university. The agreement has lapsed but no new deal has replaced it, says the organization of senior Ariel faculty.
“Absent a collective agreement between Ariel University’s senior faculty and the university administration based on conditions and wages accepted at research universities, the school year will not open,” the chairman of the faculty organization, Prof. Asher Yahalom, wrote to the university president, Prof. Yehuda Danon.
Yahalom also approached Education Minister Shay Piron and wrote to an aide to Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman. “Since the deputy minister is a member of Habayit Hayehudi, and since a party should see to the needs of its supporters, I found it appropriate to write him on this issue,” he wrote.
According to Yahalom, the appendix containing the clause on Ariel lapsed two months ago. The agreement was to remain in force six months after Ariel became a university “to allow the parties to reach a new agreement. But this has not happened,” Yahalom wrote.
Yahalom said the sides had agreed for the main clauses to be spread over five years, and that each university would reach an agreement with its own faculty.
He said that until the faculty declared a labor dispute in July, it had received no response from the administration. “Yesterday we told them we would not agree to foot-dragging, and as long as there was no collective agreement according to accepted norms at the other research universities, the school year would not open,” he said.
According to Yahalom, “for years we have been required to carry out research as if at a university, and teach as if at a college, which means more hours. And we have been earning as if at a college. We expected that after the efforts we have invested here, the institution would be recognized as a university and we would be thanked. And we would get the same conditions as at a university, and maybe a little compensation for those years.”
According to the Council for Higher Education, the wage agreement at Ariel “is not meant to end in the near future. This agreement allows for significant research conditions for faculty – as they have never been granted before.”
The council noted that any other request requires discussions between the faculty and the administration. It also requires the approval of the Finance Ministry and the council’s subcommittee on funding.
“As far as we know, discussions among the parties are still under way, so there is no reason at this point to discuss the issue beyond what has been said,” the council said.
According to Ariel University, “The faculty know that the administration is in communication with the Council for Higher Education’s funding subcommittee, and that despite the desire for a positive outcome, any agreement is conditioned on the subcommittee’s approval.”