After Salary Talks Falter, Israeli Teachers Renew Strike

Despite the Israel Teacher Union's request to raise wages to $3,000 a month, the Finance Ministry offer only $2,500

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Teacher's protest in Tel Aviv last month.
Teacher's protest in Tel Aviv last month.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

Schools and kindergartens across Israel are closed on Tuesday, with the exception of special education schools, after talks between striking Israeli teachers and the Finance Ministry over wages broke down.

While the union demanded that starting salaries be at least 10,000 shekels (approximately $3,000) a month, the Ministry of Finance offered a budget framework that would only allow salaries to reach 8,600 shekels ($2,500) a month, a source who spoke with Haaretz said. Yaffa Ben-David, the secretary general of the union, is expected to announce the return to strike.

A source close to both parties said other issues beyond teachers' salaries were discussed in the negotiations. The ministry, for example, demanded a change in the number of annual vacation days allocated to teachers, the creation of a reward mechanism that would encourage outstanding teachers, and a shortening of the dismissal process.

The source added that while the ministry hoped for limited negotiations due to the recent decision to dissolve the Knesset and upcoming elections – the teachers' union sought to reach a conclusive settlement that would result in a significant raise in salaries.

Today, the average salary of a full-time beginning teacher is about 8,500 shekel. However, most teachers do not work full time in their first years of teaching due to the structure of the education system – which means their salary during those years is around 5,000 shekels. The Finance Ministry insists that there is no point in presenting a budgetary framework before agreements are reached on the basic lines of the new agreement.

The Finance Ministry stated that "another negotiation meeting with the teachers' union has ended, the gaps between the parties are still large. The Finance Ministry is operating in a sensitive period under the existing guidelines of the Attorney General, in accordance with the term of the outgoing government."

Israel Teachers' Union froze a two-day strike last week 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.

Kindergartens and elementary schools were closed for two days nationwide last week, except for special education institutions.

Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Wednesday a measure to circumvent the strike by allocating funds for activities in schools and kindergartens starting Sunday if the strike continues. The move involves bringing forward 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 breaking the picket line.

“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, adding, “The Finance Ministry is telling the public and teachers that there is no need for professional teachers to be responsible for the education of Israel’s next generation.”

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