J'lem Special-ed Schools Avert Strike

Special-needs schools in Jerusalem will be open as usual today, after the planned strike by classroom aides was averted yesterday evening when the municipality agreed to increase their wages immediately by 5 percent and enter into negotiations over additional demands.

For the past few weeks the Histadrut labor federation has been waging a campaign to improve the wages and work conditions of some 600 aides in special-needs classrooms, which cater to 3,000 children who require ongoing assistance.

Union officials say these aides work extremely hard, yet earn only slightly above minimum wage. Moreover, salaries for aides in Jerusalem are 30 percent less than in Tel Aviv and Haifa.

Among other things, the union is seeking to change the promotion trajectory for aides, so they can be eligible for pay raises.

Aides' wages are funded primarily by the Finance Ministry, with a supplement from the local authority. The Jerusalem municipality reportedly pays less than others. Earlier yesterday, a statement from city hall said that the municipality supports a salary raise for aides, but that the Finance Ministry's wages director has not approved an increase.