Tel Aviv University Students to Strike Today

As part of the students' struggle against the reform in the higher education system planned by the Shochat Committee, the students announced yesterday that all classes scheduled for today at Tel Aviv University and Ono Academic College were canceled.

The students intend to include all academic and educational colleges nationwide in a 24-hour strike starting tomorrow. Supporting the students are the junior and senior academic personnel organizations.

Tel Aviv Student Association activists are planning to lock most of the campus gates with chains to keep potential scabs out of the institution.

The strike is the result of the Israeli Students Organization and the Tel Aviv University's Student Union's refusal to abide by the agreement signed last month by the National Students' Association and the Israel Students Organization with the Shochat Committee. The agreement did not address such cardinal demands as a reduction in tuition and the restoration of a NIS 1 billion cut from the budget allotted to higher education.

Meanwhile, the Secondary Schools Teachers' Association also announced it would strike today in all schools in the Jerusalem region, affecting grades 7-12. Yesterday, all high schools in the central district went on strike. In response, the Finance Ministry announced it was in the final stages of preparing a petition for an injunction for the National Labor Court to stop the strike from continuing.

The director general of the Education Ministry, Shmuel Abuav, noted that the ministry had managed to reach an agreement with the National Teachers Union for the early retirement of 2,600 teachers, and called on the association to follow that example.

"I hope no injunction will be necessary, and that the association teachers will come to their wits," Abuav said. Ran Erez, association chairman, said the injunction would be "futile."

Currently, no classes are expected to take place tomorrow in high schools and junior high schools in Jerusalem and the Benjamin Area, Modi'in, Maccabim-Reut, Abu Gosh, the Yehuda area, Beit Shemesh, Beitar, Kiryat Arba, Gush Etzion, Efrata, Mevaseret Zion, Ma'aleh Adumim, Givat Ze'ev, Ma'aleh Efraim and the Jordan Valley area.

The financial system was also paralyzed by the strike yesterday, after Bank of Israel employees had started a general and immediate strike, as negotiations with state authorities over their general salary agreement hit a new deadlock.

The workers ceased to stock ATM machines with cash, withheld surpluses from the stock exchange and refrained from investing foreign currency. Despite these multiple instances, data submitted to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor reveals that during 2006, there was a 40 percent decrease in the number of strikes, and a 45 percent drop in the number of work days lost through strikes and workers' sanctions.