Attorney General: Transitional Gov’t Can Negotiate Wages With Teachers, Despite Elections

The national teachers' union suspended a short-lived strike on Thursday, after a 'serious' meeting between the union's chief and finance ministry officials. Now, the pressure is on to reach an agreement before the beginning of the next school year amid a looming election

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Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, this month.
Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, this month.Credit: David Bachar

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara on Sunday approved bargaining between the government and the Teachers Union to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, despite the approaching election, in light of the union's recent strike and ongoing threats unless their demands are met.

Last week, schools opened two hours late throughout the entire country Sunday through Tuesday. And on Wednesday and Thursday, teachers went on strike nation-wide, before freezing the strike at the request of Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, after what it called a “serious” meeting between union chief Yaffa Ben-David and Kobi Bar-Nathan, director of salary and employment agreements in the Finance Ministry.

After the government announced its plan to dissolve the Knesset, the question arose whether the Finance Ministry would be allowed to continue negotiations with the Teachers Union during the tenure of a transitional government. This has happened before: in August 2019, during a transitional government, an agreement was signed between the treasury and the Teachers Union over the number of vacation and sick days teachers are entitled to, with the approval of then-Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit, relatively marginal issues compared to a new wage agreement.

On Wednesday Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman revealed that the treasury and the union disagreed 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.

Education Ministry sources told Haaretz last week that suspending talks over teachers’ wages could put the upcoming school year at risk and worsen the teacher shortage across the country.

Now, union chief Ben-David is set to meet again later on Sunday with Bar-Natanto to discuss a new wage agreement for the teachers she represents, namely kindergarten, elementary and middle school teachers.

The last wage agreement expired three years ago, but negotiations have been postponed time and time again due to lack of political stability, and were only resumed in January.

The treasury also wants to introduce a mechanism that allows 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. At the big teachers’ demonstration three weeks ago, she proclaimed that “vacation days are not up for discussion” and that “the summer vacation is the oxygen that teachers need.”

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