Teachers Strike / Day 27 / Parties Head Back to Court as Union Rejects Latest Offer

The strike of secondary school teachers is entering its 27th day as union, Finance and Education ministry representatives appear before the National Labor Court today to debate a new proposal for a resolution of the stalemate.

According to the new offer put forth by the government, the teachers will receive an immediate 10-percent increase to their salaries, in addition to a 26-percent raise following an agreement on reforming secondary education.

The teachers union rejected the proposal, saying that a significant portion of the salary increase is compensation for the erosion of their salaries in recent years.

"This is an attempt to lead astray, to create disinformation and weaken the struggle," union head Ran Erez said yesterday. He added that the Finance Ministry also refused to heed the request of the teachers for cutting down the number of pupils per class, and restore the number of teaching hours that were cut.

Officials at the treasury expressed their hope yesterday that "the involvement of the Labor Court would result in a return to school as early as Sunday."

"The teachers union cannot continue to refuse the offers that are made," officials said. "The moment of truth is nearing. If the teachers accept the offer, it is possible to end the strike quickly."

They also say that contrary to previous offers, the current proposal will result in the immediate influx of an estimated NIS 1.4 billion to the school system.

During the past two days, the treasury drafted a proposal which does not enjoy unanimous support by all officials.

Education Minister Yuli Tamir was also involved in the matter, requesting that more funding be included in the treasury's proposal.

The new wage increase proposal is apparently comprised of a 5-percent increase agreed upon this summer with the primary school teachers union - spread over a three-year period - and other percentages calculated to compensate for the erosion in the salary of teachers over the years.

For their part, the teachers say that the proposal essentially only offers a 6-percent raise, and that 4.5 percent of that sum constitutes compensation for wage erosion.

The union informed the court in writing that in their view, compensation for wage erosion is part of a "historic agreement" and that the Finance Ministry is trying to "sell" the same offer twice.