Gov`t Watchdog Delays Vote on Injunction Against Teachers` Strike

Court hearing postponed by 24 hours after Histadrut chairman offers to mediate the crisis.

The Union of Local Authorities (ULA) delayed by 24 hours Sunday morning a National Labor Court vote on an injunction against secondary school teachers` strike, following a request by Histadrut labor federation head Ofer Eini to mediate the dispute.

The Secondary School Teachers Association claimed that the ULA's involvement in the procedure stands in contrast to previous ULA board decisions, according to which it will not support back-to-work orders.

The SSTA rejects the government's claims that the strike is causing irreversible damage to students who plan to take their matriculation exams this winter, and maintains that there is no basis for issuing back-to-work orders.

Attorney Sigal Pail, representing the SSTA, said that "the Ministry of Finance behaves as if the Labor Court is the government's long arm, and as if the back-to-work orders are a fait accompli. That's why the government has not made genuine efforts to end the dispute. If the court rejects their claims, the state would have to negotiate."

The union is threatening to have the teachers resign en masse if the court issues the orders. According to SSTA Chairman Ran Erez, 3,000 teachers, most of them under 35, have thus far expressed a willingness to quit rather than comply with back-to-work orders.

He also said the union would appeal to the High Court of Justice if the labor court rules in the government's favor regarding the strike, which is in its fourth week.

And while the ULA has formally joined the government's application, not all mayors agree. Eleven of them plan to tell the court they support the teachers' strike. ULA Chairman Adi Eldar countered that he is not seeking to break the strike; the back-to-work orders would apply only to teachers involved in preparing students for the winter matriculation exams, which begin in January.

University strike continues

Efforts to end the university professors' strike have also not progressed, so the lecturers plan to intensify their sanctions Sunday: They will shut down the so-called "executive courses," which are private programs where students pay full tuition. Ordinary university classes are heavily subsidized by the government.

However, since only senior lecturers are striking, any classes taught by junior staffers will take place as usual. Courses for army officers will also be held as usual.

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