Teachers' Union, Treasury Reach Agreement on Education Reforms

Deal includes 25% wage hike, longer work week, requirement to punch time card; Teachers' Association vows to strike over wage dispute.

The Teachers' Union signed an agreement with the Finance and Education Ministries late Sunday over proposed elementary education reforms.

The reforms include a longer work week for teachers, a requirement to work with smaller groups of students during some of those hours, and a 25 percent hike in the teachers' salaries.

These reforms will be implemented at some 300 schools during the next school year, and at some 700 additional institutions during the following year.

Finance Ministry officials reported that time cards would also be mandatory alongside the reforms.

In contrast to the agreement with the Teachers' Union, the Secondary School Teachers' Association announced Sunday it would delay the opening of the next school year, due to the failure of wage negotiations with the Finance Ministry over recent months.

During the previous school year, the teachers' association conducted rolling strikes in various parts of the country, and instructed teachers not to assist in any extra-curricular activities. The strikes affected grades 7 to 12.

The organization has sat down for talks with the treasury over recent weeks, but with no results. Secondary School Teachers' Association chairman Ran Erez said Sunday "we tried to conduct serious negotiations several times over the summer, but the treasury and Finance Ministry used the situation to drag their feet."

"We are faced with an ultimatum, and we will either accept the treasury's offer and promise not to strike, or accept nothing. In a situation like this, it is preferable to strike. What have we been fighting for all these months?" Erez said during the organization's meeting Sunday.

The gap between the views of the teachers' association and the treasury revolves around the unique wage hike the teachers are demanding due to the erosion of their salaries, as well as a string of professional issues.

"The treasury is willing to give a NIS 45 hourly wage to a teacher working with children with special needs ? a sum 50 percent lower than what we demand," said Erez. "They claim that the work isn't hard, and that is why they are unwilling to compensate the teachers. If teaching special education is such a simple task, let the secretaries and librarians do it," he said.