Immigrant Teachers' Pensions Do Not Reflect Seniority Abroad

When Frieda Rubenchin immigrated from Russia in 1990, she started teaching English at Jerusalem-area schools. When she retired two years ago, she found that her 29 years of seniority from teaching in Russia were not going to be counted in calculating her pension. "Then I started a war against the Education Ministry and after that against the Civil Service Commission," she said. Rubenchin said the authorities finally recognized her seniority. She now receives a pension of NIS 2,180 per month.

Relative to many of her colleagues, Rubenchin's struggle ended successfully. The head of pensions and compensation at the Education Ministry, Nathan Marko, says that over the past five years, the foreign work experience of 942 retiring immigrant teachers was taken into account when calculating their salaries. However only 25 percent of them managed to translate this seniority into pension money. The Education Ministry is responsible for the first calculation, while the Civil Service Commission is responsible for the second.

A senior official in the Education Ministry says the low number of teachers who have their seniority abroad counted toward their pension is "not right." The official said some of the teachers do not meet the relatively strict criteria of the Civil Service Commission and some did not submit requests to this end. The teachers themselves say that the lack of proper vocational retraining and the bureaucratic maze have made recognizing their pension rights a mission impossible.

S., from Jerusalem, immigrated from Ukraine in 1992 and took an early retirement in 2005 as part of the Dovrat reforms. "I haven't managed to understand how they made their calculations," she says. "Nobody tells me how much I should get; as if it's a military secret," she added. S. says she has no way of knowing whether the pension she has been granted - NIS 1800 a month- is all she should get.

The head of the immigrants committee of the Pensioners Party, Alex Tantzner, says the Education Ministry and the Civil Service Commission are trying to conceal the laws and make it difficult for immigrant teachers to realize their rights.

As opposed to the Education Ministry, the Civil Service Commission says "more than 75 percent of immigrants have received increased pensions." Regarding a lack of information, the Education Ministry says every district has an official whose job it is to provide information to those seeking to retire, in addition to explanatory material and programs for soon-to-be retirees.