High School Teachers to Stage 'Warning Strike' Today

The Secondary School Teachers Association will hold a "warning strike" today in grades 7 through 12 (excluding communities around the Gaza Strip), after the state withdrew its request for an injunction to bar the teachers from striking.

Union head Ran Erez said there would probably be no further strikes before the Rosh Hashanah holiday starts next Wednesday, but that the teachers "are gearing up for a major fight immediately following Sukkot."

The association will meet Sunday to determine its next moves. "If we see that the treasury is continuing to evade real negotiations, we will go on strike for months," Erez said. "It is entirely possible that studies will not resume at secondary schools after Sukkot. It's 'gloves off' time."

The teachers also resumed the labor sanctions they engaged in last year, which entails not performing any work beyond classroom instruction and not engaging in any school activities.

Responding to today's planned strike, an Education Ministry official said: "It's a pity that the teachers' organization won't give negotiations a chance. It is saddening that teachers are investing energy in sanctions."

The union has been fighting since last December for a new collective wage agreement that would include a significant raise and improved benefits, such as extra pay for working with learning disabled students. It had planned to start an open-ended strike on the first day of school, but 10 days ago, at the state's request, the National Labor Court issued an injunction barring it from disrupting the opening of the school year.

At a follow-up hearing yesterday, however, the Finance and Education Ministries, along with the Union of Local Authorities, announced that they would not ask for an extension of the injunction.

In response, the judges commented: "Since both parties have the best interests of the school system in mind, they would do well to conduct open-ended negotiations, in good faith and with a willing heart, in order to settle the differences between them."

Erez claimed that the state backed down because it realized there was little chance of extending the injunction. "Under the injunction, we were supposed to conduct intensive negotiations, but two meetings were canceled by the treasury, and [they sent] junior clerks to other meetings."

However, the treasury said it withdrew its request in the hopes of spurring substantive negotiations. "During the discussions held over the past few days, Erez introduced new and excessive demands," a treasury representative said. "There was even one last meeting at the Education Ministry before the court hearing, at which they tried to persuade him to move ahead with the negotiations, but to no avail."