Teachers' Leader: I Can't Make Them Go Back to Work

The chairman of the Secondary School Teachers Association (SSTA), Ran Erez, said yesterday he could not prevent teachers from not honoring court-issued back-to-work orders.

"I cannot stop humiliated teachers from not going back to work in the schools," he said.

Activists said over the weekend that teachers at 47 schools have so far announced they would not return to work on December 13, when the court order takes effect.

"The government wants me to be the teacher's jailer," Erez said. "I say to the teachers, everyone must do what their conscience bids them."

Another negotiating session is to take place this evening between the teachers and the heads of the Education Ministry and the Finance Ministry.

The teachers are planning several protest activities for this week.

Erez said that if "40 to 50 percent of the teachers do not return to school, 20 to 30 percent of the students will not go back to school because they are not willing for their teachers to teach under court order. They will be joined by another 10 to 15 percent of the parents who support our fight," adding, "there will be anarchy in the education system."

Erez also said that if he did not comply with the order and call the teachers to return to work, he would be breaking the law.

"But the teachers are not willing to obey me. They are not breaking the law, but at most have committed a disciplinary infraction for the SSTA, and an administrative infraction for their employer, who will treat their absence as justified."

Speaking yesterday on Channel 2's Meet the Press, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On said, "A teacher who does not honor the court order loses the moral right to stand before a class and demand discipline, quiet and attention."