Striking Teachers: We'll Appeal to High Court if Ordered Back to Work

Court to rule on whether to order striking teachers back to work; Minister to propose gov't commits to reducing class size.

The Secondary Schools' Teachers Association said Sunday that if the National Labor Court were to order striking teachers back to work, it would appeal the decision at the High Court of Justice.

The National Labor Court will announce later Sunday its ruling on the state's request that it order the striking high school teachers back to work.

Meanwhile, court officials are waiting to see whether the government will decide on implementing a program to reduce the amount of students in classes.

The teachers' strike is now in its 46th day.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Finance Minister Roni Bar-On plan on proposing to the government that it commit in principle to reducing the number of students per class and increasing the amount of school hours taught.

The ministers will not propose, however, that the government provides details of steps to be taken to achieve this goal.

The Secondary School Teachers Association (SSTA) said Saturday it was concerned the National Labor Court would order in fact issue an injunction against their strike.

Also Sunday, the National Parents Organization announced a strike in grades 1-12 in support of the striking teachers. However, the Community Parental Committees Forum opposes it, while the Education Ministry and the Israel Teachers Union, whose members teach mainly in the elementary schools, say classes will be held as usual.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir said Saturday she believed few parents would heed the call to strike.

The SSTA was still trying to arrange a meeting Saturday with the Finance Ministry's director general, Toram Ariav. The association told the court that unofficial talks over the weekend were fruitful.

However, Tamir said: "There are no additional tools at this time to move negotiations ahead with the teachers. The request to issue injunctions was made after we tried every possible track."

SSTA head Ran Erez said if the court issued back-to-work orders, "as an organization we will honor them. However, some teachers will not listen to me and will decide to resign. Those who do not will go back to school without hope. It is not clear whether parents will chose to send their children to school when the teachers are working under an injunction."

Meanwhile, consultations among various teachers groups were held over the weekend. Teachers at a meeting of one said that few teachers were likely to resign if the court ordered them back to work, but some might come to school and not teach their regular hours or take sick days.

A three-hour meeting in Labor Court President Steve Adler's chambers between the education and finance ministers and the SSTA ended at 3 A.M. Friday with no results.

Erez wrote a letter to Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann saying that Adler asked the finance minister: "When do you want the injunctions?"

Mazal Mualem and Yair Ettinger add: Labor Party Chairman and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Friday he fully supports Education Minister Tamir. Speaking at a meeting of the Labor Party bureau, Barak added that the MKs petition calling for Tamir's resignation, which Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz also signed, was inappropriate.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Shas party's spiritual leader, said Saturday that secular teachers were "donkeys" and parents should be urged to remove their children from these schools. Speaking at his weekly lesson in Jerusalem, Yosef said the secular education system "corrupted" children.