Israel's Treasury Warns High School Teachers Will Lose Pay if They Don’t Teach Over Summer

Union leader calls demand to return nine teaching days ‘abuse,’ saying teachers already fulfilled obligations through online teaching

Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
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The Rehavia Gymnasium high school, Jerusalem, June 11, 2020.
The Rehavia Gymnasium high school, Jerusalem, June 11, 2020. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Shira Kadari-Ovadia
Shira Kadari-Ovadia

The supervisor of wages and labor agreements at the Finance Ministry, Kobi Bar-Nathan, warned on Monday that high school teachers who refuse to work back nine days of teaching over the summer holiday would not receive their full wages for the first days of the coronavirus crisis, during which schools were closed.

In a letter he sent to Shmuel Abuav, the director general of the Ministry of Education, Bar-Nathan wrote that the payment of full wages to high school teachers, who are part of the Association of Secondary School Teachers, is conditioned on their abiding by an agreement reached with the Teachers Union, which represents kindergartens, elementary and middle (junior high) schools. That agreement stipulates that teachers return nine days of teaching at the end of the school year. Bar-Nathan said that if this does not happen, it will constitute a violation of the budget law.

The chairman of the Association of Secondary School Teachers, Ran Erez, said in response that after the Treasury has finished abusing high school students it was now abusing teachers as well. “These are empty threats, lacking legal validity,” he said. “Only yesterday, the education minister said the opposite, stating that one hour of online teaching was equivalent to one hour of frontal teaching. Teachers fulfilled all their tasks according to ministry guidelines and the curriculum, and did not miss a single hour. They do not owe any hours and nothing should be detracted from their wages.”

The Education Ministry announced on Sunday that it was demanding that all teachers, at all levels, add nine days of teaching over the summer holiday. According to the ministry, kindergartens and elementary schools will continue until July 13, with pupils in grades 7 to 10 finishing on July 1. Pupils in grades 11 and 12 will continue to prepare for their matriculation exams, which last from June 22 to July 27. It is believed that the Education Ministry will appeal to the labor court in order to force 10th-grade teachers to teach until July 1.

In early April, the Treasury and the Teacher Union’s secretary-general, Yaffa Ben-David, signed an agreement by which teachers in elementary and middle schools will teach a further nine days in July, in exchange for days in which they did no online teaching during the lockdown. The agreement includes a clause that stipulates that 10th-grade teachers would teach the extra days as well. Last Thursday, Ben-David sent teachers a letter saying that they would not teach more than other teachers who were not preparing pupils for matriculation exams.

However, the Teachers Union did not sign any agreement with the Treasury during the coronavirus crisis, allowing its members to believe that the school year would end on June 20. Ran Erez announced last month that he was opposed to extending the school year since high school teachers continued to deliver online teaching throughout the coronavirus period. An oral understanding was reached between the Teachers Union and the Treasury regarding grades 11 and 12, according to which teachers preparing pupils for exams would continue working with them up to the exam date.

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