Treasury, Faculty Make Progress Under Auspices of Labor Court

Head of university presidents' committee says the strike could be resolved 'within a few days.'

Some progress was made Monday in talks between representatives of the striking university lecturers, university presidents and Finance Ministry officials. The meeting took the form of small teams, convened by National Labor Court President Steve Adler in a bid to reach a formula that can kick-start the stalemated negotiations.

Progress was arrived at Monday when the sides discussed a mechanism for preventing future wage erosion. Prof. Moshe Kaveh, chairman of the university presidents' committee, said that Adler had made "constructive and interesting suggestions," including "a new idea that did not exist during the two months we have been negotiating."

The strike by senior faculty members, now in its 72 day, began October 21.

Sources involved in the talks said that Adler proposed that senior faculty wages be linked to something other than the cost-of-living index, as the lecturers had demanded until now.

Kaveh expressed "cautious optimism" that the strike could be resolved "within a few days."

"If they reach an understanding on the issue of preventing faculty wage erosion in the future, a large part of the crisis would be resolved," he said.

Prof. Asher Cohen, a member of the faculty negotiating team, was far less sanguine.

"The matter won't end unless the government pressures the treasury to be more flexable toward us," Cohen said. "As far as we're concerned, we will strike for as long as it takes."

Prof. Zvi Hacohen, chairman of the coordinating council of senior faculty organizations, was noncommittal. "We still have no idea whether this is a good suggestion," said Hacohen. "We have to examine it."

It was agreed at the meeting that the treasury officials would also study the proposal, and the sides will reconvene on Wednesday.