Secondary School Teachers to Strike After Ministry Talks Fail

Strike to begin Wednesday after Tamir, union unable to reach compromise in last-ditch efforts to avoid strike.

The Secondary Schools Teachers' Association on Tuesday decided to go forth with their planned general strike, after last-ditch efforts to negotiate with the Education Ministry and avert strike failed.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir (Labor) met Tuesday with the chairman of secondary school teachers' union, but the two failed to yield compromise. The strike will begin Wednesday.

The union convened to discuss Tamir's proposals to continue the talks and decide whether it accepts them or not. The strike, which the Secondary Schools Teachers' Association had declared last week, is likely to go ahead as planned.

Tamir proposed to continue the talks on two tracks. The first, which is to last for several months, would be aimed at drafting an agreed reform in secondary education. The second is intended to reach an agreement on an immediate wage increment.

The teachers' union chair Ran Erez said he had lowered his initial demand for a 20 percent raise to 15 percent.

Erez said that even if an agreement on a wage rise is reached in Tuesday's meeting, "the education minister would have to persuade the Finance Ministry to pay it, and after that probably the prime minister. In the best case scenario, this process will last a week or two. We refuse to wait any longer, therefore we will start the strike tomorrow."

Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said Monday he had no intention of giving the teachers wage raises.

Erez said Bar-On should be "commended for finally telling the truth - the treasury has and never had any intention of giving the teachers pay rises. Apparently the finance minister is acting against the education minister. While she is making efforts to find a solution to the crisis, he announces there will be no raises."

The union has been battling with the treasury and the Education Ministry for a year over a new collective wage agreement.