Haifa Region High-school Teachers to Strike Today

The Secondary Schools Teachers' Association is planning to strike today in all Haifa area high schools, canceling classes for all students grades seven to 12.

The association said it had decided to resume sanctions due to Finance Ministry "foot-dragging" during negotiations over new contracts. The National Teachers' Union, however, announced yesterday it had reached a new agreement with the treasury over retirement quotas and work contracts.

During the strike, students with learning disabilities will not receive special assistance. Also, teachers will not conduct special and extracurricular activities outside the classroom. In addition, students will not receive review classes for matriculation exams.

The sanctions apply to schools from Hadera to Haifa, but yesterday, teachers nationwide started cutting back their work hours to scheduled classes only.

The association noted that preparations for Holocaust Remembrance Day and Memorial Day will go on as scheduled. Teachers will also participate in student expeditions to Poland, but not in all off-campus preparations.

The strike and sanctions that began yesterday are part of the association's renewed struggle. "The negotiations are still unfruitful, and no progress has been made," the association said. "The finance and education ministry representatives cannot answer any of the teachers' demands."

According to association chairman Ran Erez, "Neither the finance minister nor the education minister has the authority to make progress, let alone their representatives. It all comes down to the lack of government policy for building the education system and to the fact that the prime minister does not give a green light to investing in Israel's children." Erez added, "The public must know that cheap education will cost us dearly."

In contrast, the treasury's new two-year agreement with the National Teachers' Union states that each year, 1,300 teachers will willingly retire in exchange for a NIS 40,000 grant and five months' salary. Teachers who are not government employees and or who retire for heath reasons will not be included in the quota. The union promised not to strike over these issues so long as these terms are met.

Teachers' Union head Yossi Wasserman said that in signing the agreement, the treasury demonstrated it had realized that "worn-out teachers must be allowed to leave the system with dignity and proper terms. Now, teachers who have been worn out after making a considerable contribution through many years of hard work can now walk away with dignity and proper pay."

Finance Minister Abraham Hirchson called the agreement with the Teachers' Union a "breakthrough toward genuine discussions aimed at bringing about a real education reform."

Eli Cohen, the treasury official in charge of teachers' pay, called on association members to abandon the sanctions and "join the negotiations on the education reform."