Schools, Kindergartens Remain Closed as Teachers' Strike Enters Second Day

A few local municipalities may open their kindergartens using auxiliary staff

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Children on their way to school at 10.00 A.M. this week, Israel.
Children on their way to school at 10.00 A.M. this week, Israel.Credit: Hadas Parush

Kindergartens and elementary schools throughout Israel remained closed Thursday for a second consecutive day, as negotiations between the Teachers' Union and the Finance Ministry stall.

The Israel Teachers Union head, Yaffa Ben-David, said the sanctions will continue until the Finance Ministry submits a concrete proposal. She again urged Finance Ministry Avigdor Lieberman "not to wait until Sunday, but instead to start serious negotiations tomorrow." Labor and treasury representatives have not met since last Thursday.

A few local municipalities may open their kindergartens Thursday, with the help of teacher's aides and staff from kindergarten after-school programs. Special education institutions will operate as usual.

The sanctions were prompted by the stalemate in talks over a new collective bargaining agreement. Last week schools opened two hours late one day – each day in a different area of the country. The two-hour delayed opening was expanded to the entire country Sunday through Tuesday this week, and on Wednesday a full strike was announced.

Lieberman announced Wednesday a measure to circumvent the strike by allocating funds for activities in schools and kindergartens starting Sunday if the strike continues next week. The move involves bringing up the start date for summer programs in schools, which were scheduled to begin July 1, and staffing them with teacher's aides, after-school program employees, external staff and teachers who are willing to be scabs.

"It turns out the treasury does have money, but it prefers to give it to day-camp operators rather than teachers," Ben-David said in response to the finance minister's announcement.

Following Lieberman's announcement, the secretary general of the Histadrut labor federation, the umbrella organization for most trade unions in Israel, announced that he would not let teacher's aides bear the burden of the crisis in the country's education system. Arnon Bar-David said auxiliary staff would not operate programs in the absence of a qualified teacher. Ben-David praised Bar-David "for his solidarity and for protecting the aides from the treasury's exploitation."

Despite the strike Wednesday, kindergartens in the towns of Kiryat Ono, Kiryat Shmona and Modi'in were open as usual, staffed by aides who are employed by their respective cities and are not on strike. Jerusalem has already said it would do the same Thursday, and the Tel Aviv suburb of Givatayim may do so as well.

Lieberman stressed Wednesday that the treasury and the union disagree over the allocation of wage increases between younger teachers and their more experienced colleagues. The Finance Ministry wants to close the salary gaps between these two groups, which are among the highest in the industrialized world, while the union wants the pay raise to be given to all teachers.

The treasury also wants to introduce a mechanism that will allow school principals to reward good teachers monetarily, as well as to change the school calendar so that vacation days overlap with the rest of the economy. Ben-David has rejected these proposals.

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