Israeli Teachers' Union Suspends Strike After Promise of Salary Negotiations

Labor union backs down after Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman says negotiations over teachers' wages will continue during election period

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An elementary school in Tel Aviv during the strike, last week.
An elementary school in Tel Aviv during the strike, last week.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Classes in Israeli schools will resume on Wednesday, the teachers' union announced on Tuesday, suspending a strike it called the day before over lack of progress in talks with the government over workers' salaries.

The labor union has decided to put the strike on hold after Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated on Tuesday that negotiations on raising teachers' salaries won't be limited during the election period.

Israeli lawmakers are all but certain to dissolve the Knesset on Wednesday and call a new election. A caretaker government that will serve until a new one is formed – potentially about six months from now.

During the negotiations between the Finance Ministry and the Israel Teachers Union, questions arose as to the Finance Ministry's authority to approve any major reforms in teachers' wages in the months before a new government is sworn in.

However, after the organization released its latest statement, Minister Lieberman said that the government's position has not changed, and that their hands are tied due to the attorney general's directives.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Bitton, was "deeply involved in the negotiations," the Finance Ministry said. The union's decision to end the strike came after Shasha-Bitton requested not to shut down the education system during the very final days of the school year.

Schools and preschools across Israel were closed on Tuesday, except for special education schools, after talks between striking Israeli teachers and the Finance Ministry over wages broke down.

The Ministry of Finance has so far claimed that they are limited in their ability to increase teachers' salaries due to the attorney general's directive, which stated that negotiations between the parties are subject to restrictions that apply during the election period.

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 tolf Haaretz.

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.

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