Teachers' Strike Expected to Continue Despite 'Progress' in Talks

The secondary school teachers' strike, which is entering its third day today, is likely to continue next week despite the "encouraging signs" cited by Education Minister Yuli Tamir yesterday.

The Secondary School Teachers Association (SSTT) said that reports of progress were premature, and that there are still big differences between the sides, which are to continue talks next week about the wage dispute.

Meanwhile, Tamir asked local authority heads yesterday to organize activities for the youngsters who are out of school in preparation for a long-term strike. The Union of Local Authorities (ULA) estimated these activities would cost NIS 5.7 million a day.

Tamir said the SSTT and ministry officials had agreed on two principles - additional instruction hours for added pay, and that the overall wage increment will not be higher than the one agreed on with the Teachers' Federation, i.e. 26 percent.

"If the SSTT accepts this framework, we can start discussions tomorrow morning," Tamir said. "This is very significant progress because until now the teachers demanded large pay raises without agreeing to any kind of reform," she said.

"Everyone knows the teachers' wages have to change, that study hours must be increased and there must be a reform in elementary and secondary education. We're ready to discuss the reform, so there is no justification for the strike," Tamir said.

However, SSTT chairman Ran Erez said "the statements about agreements are groundless. Tamir is in such distress that she sees every cork floating on the water as an island. Tamir is eager to report progress because the strike tarnishes her public image."

The strike will begin in the Arab schools next Wednesday.

Erez said: "For a 15 percent wage raise for all secondary school teachers, I was willing to carry out stages in the reform that the SSTT had drafted. The education minister said she had to mull over the ideas and promised an answer."

The SSTT's reform consists of increasing the teachers' workload to 40 hours a week in exchange for a 60 percent wage raise.

ULA chairman Adi Eldar said that if the strike continues, the ULA would organize studies in community centers for pupils preparing for their matriculation exams. "They should not have to pay the strike's price," he said.

However, the union of the Israel Association of Community Centers yesterday objected to the education and finance ministries "using the community centers to solve the problem of children out of school."

The union told the workers not to initiate any activity for pupils apart from the community centers' regular activity.