Students at Eight Israeli Colleges Announce Strike to Protest Ongoing Faculty Strike

Academic year has not started for 30,000 students due to clash between lecturers and college heads over wage agreement

Lecturers at Sapir college on strike in Sderot, October 2018.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Students at eight public colleges whose senior faculty have been on strike announced that they were launching an open-ended strike of their own on Monday to protest the disruption to their studies.

“The primary victims of this strike are the 30,000 students whose academic year hasn’t started,” said the National Students Union, which is organizing the strike. The student strike will take place at the following colleges: Sapir, Kinneret, Hadassah, the Holon Institute of Technology, Ruppin, Azrieli, the Jerusalem College of Technology (Machon Lev), and the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College.

“Most of the classes in our department are given by senior faculty, so we don’t have almost any classes,” said Elisheva Heilbron, a fourth-year bioinformatics student at Machon Tal, Machon Lev’s women’s division. “Our concern is that the whole semester will be canceled. I’m planning to go on for a master’s degree next year, but now it isn’t clear whether I’ll finish my [bachelor’s] degree on time.

“Even if they find a way to make up the classes during the semester, the pressure will be fierce and I’m not sure how we’ll manage it. The lecturers and the administration haven’t contacted us this whole time. They let us know that there won’t be class, but seem to have no empathy for our distress and don’t dialogue with us,” said Heilbron.

Meanwhile, the senior faculty at Ashkelon Academic College announced that they were going to join their colleagues’ strike on Monday.

The faculty have been on strike for over three weeks, but the sides are far from reaching an agreement because the Committee of College Heads is refusing to meet with faculty representatives. The striking faculty members claim that the collective wage agreement drawn up with the college heads and the Council of Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee (Vatat), which some of the colleges have signed, was drawn up unilaterally and without consulting them.

The college heads, on the other hand, argue that the document of principles that both sides signed a year ago is binding and that all parties must honor it and sign a final agreement. The college heads are refusing to meet with the strikers, saying that any other demands must be negotiated with the individual colleges.

“We’re being held hostage and no one is finding us a solution,” said Yonatan Kinreich, a second-year student in government at the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College. “We are mired in uncertainty. The classes that take place are also disrupted, because the striking lecturers come into the classes of the strike-breakers. The college administration has had to hire security guards so that the strike-breakers can teach. What’s happening on campus is a disgrace all around – from the side of both the strikers and the administration. We are demanding that everyone stop running this preschool at our expense.”

“We are pleased that the students are expressing their opinion and joining the strike,” said Dr. Moti Gigi, the head of Sapir College’s School of Communications. “It’s a move that will spur the college heads, Vatat and the treasury to summon us for negotiations.”

The Committee of College Heads said, “We regret that an extreme minority that doesn’t represent the faculty organizations in most of the colleges is causing tremendous harm to the students, the lecturers and to Israel’s higher education system.”