No End in Sight as Teachers Strike Enters Its Fifth Day

As the secondary school teachers strike enters its fifth day, thousands are expected to participate in a protest rally in front of the Tel Aviv Museum this afternoon.

The protest follows a fruitless meeting yesterday between the treasury's deputy wage director Ofra Bartov, deputy director general at the Education Ministry Menahem Cohen, and union chairman Ran Erez. The discussion ended no closer to a conclusion in the four-day-old teachers strike.

Following the meeting, Education Minister Yuli Tamir said that "we have essentially gone back to the starting point because the teachers union now refuses to discuss issues that they have already agreed to discuss."

The union rejects these claims saying that their original demands remain unchanged.

Well-placed sources in the negotiations said yesterday that early next week injunctions will be issued against the teachers union.

However, Tamir said that there are no plans as of yet to request an injunction against the teachers, although she did add that "once we get to the period of winter matriculation exams, we will have a much bigger dilemma on our hands."

Tamir accused Erez of "purposely preventing progress in the negotiations. He is now not ready to talk about any of the subjects that in the past he was willing to discuss, and first and foremost increasing the work day for higher wages, and limiting general wage increases to 26 percent, as was agreed with the [primary school] teachers union."

A joint statement by the treasury and the Education Ministry blamed Erez for "continuing to remain entrenched in his position and refusing to discuss reforms in the secondary school educational system. He ignores the resources that have been alloted in order to significantly raise the wages of teachers."

Erez rejects these charges, saying that "for the umpteenth time we have stated our demands, which have not been changed: a 15-percent wage increase for all teachers. They, on the other hand, repeated their stance, which is that they want us to teach more hours, give up various wage extras and agree to a general wage increase that does not exceed 26 percent. We won't have it."

Earlier, Tamir had said that she hoped negotiations would resume within a day or two, allowing the two sides to mull over a proposal whereby all secondary school teachers would receive an immediate 11 percent bump in their salary. The union and the state would then resume talks on an additional 26-percent wage increase.

According to the proposals, high school teachers who provide assistance in special projects, such as aiding students in studying for the matriculation exams, would be eligible for further pay bonuses.

"This way, most teachers can attain a salary increase of at least 36 percent," Tamir said. The secondary school teachers union rebuffed Tamir's offer, countering with a demand for an immediate 15 percent salary hike.