Preparatory Course Teachers at BGU on Strike Over Poor Pay

Say forced to work without pay in summer

Dozens of lecturers at Ben-Gurion University's preparatory programs have been on strike for almost three weeks, shutting down studies for some 400 students. The lecturers are demanding better wages and work conditions.

The university's junior faculty is to join the strike tomorrow as a symbolic measure for two hours from 10 A.M. until noon.

The committee representing junior faculty members, which also represents the preparatory program lecturers - most of whom have master's degrees and some with Ph.D.s - says they are hired for eight months and then let go for four.

As a result, they are unable to accumulate seniority or earn raises.

The committee also says the teachers in the preparatory programs are paid only two thirds of what adjunct faculty with the same academic degrees are paid.

According to the committee, even after the teachers are fired, they are required to continue grading papers without pay.

"We are employed as contract workers, without benefits, seniority or a property pension," said Erez Yiftach, who represents the preparatory programs' teachers on the junior faculty committee.

Yiftach said the university had hired B.A. students to break the strike. "They take students in their second or third year and pay them NIS 20 an hour."

But Yiftach says that because the level of teaching is not high, few preparatory students attend the classes.

The committee says that in talks between the university and the teachers, which began in January, the university offered to peg wages to the accepted table of salary levels of preparatory program teachers.

But in the last meeting, the university presented other wage tables significantly inferior than those agreed to, a committee member said.

Ben-Gurion University responded that it regretted the teacher's decision to strike and that teachers had rejected a "generous offer" yesterday during talks. "The demands of the preparatory program teachers are unprecedented in Israeli universities," the school said.