Histadrut Head Says Lecturers' Strike Could End Thursday Night

Ofer Eini to present proposal that would give teachers compensation for each year from 1997 to 2009.

Senior Finance Ministry officials and National Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini will hold a meeting at the Finance Ministry offices at 8:30 Thursday evening in a bid to end the university lecturers' strike.

The two sides will debate proposals presented by Eini, who stated that if "both sides deal with the issues in a serious and earnest manner, we can bring the strike to an end this evening."

Eini's proposal would give lecturers compensation amounting to 15.5% of their salaries from 1997-2006 and 5% added to their salaries for 2007 ? 2009 and 1.5% annually after that.

The lecturers have been striking since the beginning of the academic year in October due to dissatisfaction with their salaries and work conditions.

The financial damage to the universities caused by the loss of the school year is estimated at NIS 3.25 billion, according to an initial report by the Council for Higher Education's planning and budgeting committee. The report, which was submitted to the Knesset Education Committee, said the universities "will not be able to shoulder [this amount] without a special budget increase," but that the budgeting committee "does not have the resources to fund such additional costs."

The report, which based its estimate on losses due to a lack of tuition money and the expenses involved in having an additional semester, said that even if classes were to resume now, the cost would still come to hundreds of millions of shekels for all the universities - again, too much for the budgeting committee to handle.

The report also predicts that academic research will be damaged because the faculty is expected to take part in seminars and conferences abroad during the summer.