Cost of Lecturers' Strike Estimated at Nearly NIS 300 Million

Compensation for students and extra pay for junior faculty make up most of cost; Finance Ministry determined to implement Shochat reforms.

The empty campuses and classrooms during the senior faculty strike that ends Sunday cost the universities dearly. The state will pay an extra NIS 648 million for the agreement reached with the striking teachers, but with a possible junior faculty strike on the horizon the price could raise even more.

The universities will suffer at least NIS 297.5 million in costs, not including the many demands from students for reimbursements. This figure includes NIS 72.5 million for salaries to junior faculty and outside lecturers who were not on strike, and who now have to extend their teaching schedule.

There is also a loss of NIS 100 million from summer programs and activities that will be cut back, and NIS 125 million for operating during scheduled vacation periods.

Campus businesses also suffered a drop of up to 50% in business.

The agreement reached with the lecturers, which gives senior faculty a raise of approximately 24 percent by 2009, ended the longest academic strike in Israeli history, after nearly three months. Now, the academic year will be extended through mid-August to compensate for lost instruction time.

The agreement "must be accompanied by the reform, in order to change the content and essence of higher education, not only the wage structure of a small sector of lecturers," Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said.

The treasury announced Saturday that it will still implement the Shochat Committee report on higher education reforms, even though the agreement it signed with professors did not incorporate clauses from that report.

The Shochat report raised hackles on the campuses because of its call to raise tuition. Some students and lecturers objected to other clauses in the report because they said it would legitimize the entire document.

The faculty representatives are to conduct future talks with the government on implementing the Shochat report.

Strike cost students at least NIS 165 million

The strike bore a heavy cost on university students, most of whom were left in a state of limbo without any clue of when the strike would end, hindering their ability to take long-term jobs while studies were stopped. Also, many of those same students will have to study over the summer instead of working as many of them planned.

Professor Tzvi Ha-Cohen, head of the Senior Faculty Association, said that the students were "the ones most hurt by the strike. They were not able to work having to still study part-time, and now they will have to study in the summer. They should be compensated."