Teachers' Union Inclined to Resume Talks, Halt Strikes Next Week

Strike scheduled for secondary schools in the north, south has not been canceled.

The Teachers' Union is inclined to accept the Finance Ministry's offer to resume negotiations over a new wage agreement, and cancel all strikes scheduled for next week.

The Finance Ministry also said it would not issue restraining orders against the striking teachers.

However, the strike scheduled for secondary schools in the north and south on Thursday has not been canceled.

The Association of Secondary School Teachers held a strike at secondary schools in the Jerusalem area Wednesday, after having shut down Haifa area schools Tuesday.

Ran Erez, Chairman of the Association of Secondary School Teachers, advised the members of the organization to accept the Finance Ministry's offer. "Now it's time to test the Finance Ministry and see how serious they are. If the negotiations turn out to be barren and unserious again, we will resume striking with full public support," he said.

Meanwhile, college students held there own one-day strike Wednesday and demonstrated at the Rokach interchange. The strike affected 36 colleges nationwide.

The demonstrators protested the work of the Shochat Committee, which is discussing a reform of the higher education system, and called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to resign following his mismanagement of the education system and the recent war in Lebanon.

"This is just a warning strike - a warning to the government that agreements must be honored, and if they try to violate the agreement or back away from their obligations, our reaction will be harsh and we will demand that the prime minister resign," said Chairman of the National Students Union Itai Barda.

Two weeks ago, the students canceled a planned strike against the Shochat Committee after reaching an agreement with the government under which representatives of the country's two student unions would be added to the subcommittee that is discussing tuition. However, one of the two unions - the Israel Students Organization, which represents most students at the colleges - has since concluded that this agreement was a mistake, and over the last few days has resumed protests against the committee.