On Thursday, there was a strike of school teachers from institutions located in central Israel. The Israel Teachers Union has been struggling for ensuring better working conditions and higher wages for the teachers. An announcement from the union Thursday night said that another strike was planned for Sunday in Jerusalem and schools in the capital would open late. A new salary agreement is under negotiation by union officials and the government, as part of the upcoming budget. The union has said that unless their demands are met, they will continue to strike.
The Heart of the Problem
The reforms introduced by the Finance Ministry are the heart of the problem because they are meant to reduce the teachers’ union’s power and authority. Some of the measures that are included in this category involve reducing the pay gap between new and veteran teachers and setting wages not on the basis of experience, but on competence. Likewise, principals would also be allowed to fire teachers without any intervention from the union.
The demands of the union is that a monthly salary of about NIS 10,000 be paid to the teachers, along with a substantial increase in the salaries of experienced teachers. Media reports indicate that some teachers with extensive experience do not get paid more than NIS 7,500 per month. While official discussions were initiated about two months ago, reports indicate that the Finance Ministry and the union had been in touch for about a year. After the strike on Thursday, Yaffa Ben David, the head of the Teachers Union, said that the Finance Ministry had last made a salary agreement in 2019.
She said that they would take advantage of all legal steps for preventing the collapse of the education system, one of which is a general strike. She said that the officials of the Finance Ministry seem to be living on a different planet. She also added that parents were also quite supportive of their struggle and asked them to raise their voices as well. She said that it was for their kids and if they want quality, they should pay for it.
Ben David Blames Ministry Officials
The Teachers Union’s head went on to say that the dispute was just being dragged by the Finance Ministry. She claimed that officials want teachers to be paid NIS 8,200 per month, but they had denied the proposal because it would not be accepted. Avigdor Liberman, the Finance Minister, had also suggested that vacations of teachers be adjusted to that of parents, but Ben David rejected it.
She said that reforms could not just be tossed in the air and they had not had discussions on the matter directly. In fact, she accused the Finance Ministry of using the media to conduct the negotiations. Liberman’s reforms may be undermined by the fragile coalition that he is a part of. Yifat Shasha-Biton, the Education Minister, has already threatened that she would vote against the budget unless the government meets the demands of the teachers.