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Photo by: DANIELLE ZIRI
J'lem after-school staffers strike over salary cuts
By DANIELLE ZIRI
03/02/2013
The Trajtenberg Committee decided to lower the cost of after-school programs in order to ease the situation of working parents.
 
Jerusalem after-school activities were closed on Sunday afternoon as workers went on strike to protest against salary reductions and worsening conditions recently brought about by the implementation of a new reform.

The Trajtenberg Committee, appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the summer 2011 social justice protests, decided to lower the cost of after-school programs in order to ease the situation of working parents. The reform was implemented last month in Jerusalem as part of a pilot for the project, requested by the municipality.

In the process, the staff at these programs have been switched over from a global salary to an hourly one, resulting in a reduction of their pay.

Dozens of educators announced their resignations on Sunday, explaining that they cannot afford to work under the new conditions, and causing an unexpected shortage in staff at after-school programs.

Jerusalem City Council member Rachel Azaria joined the struggle after receiving many complaints from local education centers and parents.

“We went to the streets in the summer of 2011 calling for social justice and opportunity for young families to live with dignity. Both these principles can and must come together,” she said in a statement.

“The cheaper cost of after-school centers is significant and welcome, but it is unnecessary and impossible to abandon the dedicated workers in the process, and I call on the municipality to stop ignoring the problem and treat it before it’s too late,” she said.

Sunday’s strike was organized after the Finance Ministry met with officials of the municipality, representatives of the after-school centers and parents on Saturday night.

Although the Jerusalem municipality painted the meeting as fruitful; educators and parents, accompanied by Azaria, called it “unsuccessful” and took to the streets.

Some 2,000 children in the capital were deprived of after-school activity for the occasion.

“The problem of salaries is solvable. The Jerusalem municipality should engage now in finding a solution to assist thousands of children who have no after-school structure today, instead of spreading misinformation,” Azaria said on Sunday.

The Treasury released a statement on Sunday explaining that in implementing the recommendations of the Trajtenberg Committee, the government is subsidizing after-school programs this year, an operation worth hundreds of millions of shekels and taking place in many local authorities.

“The operation of such programs is conducted upon the request of the municipality and it is responsible for such operation,” the statement continued.

Over a hundred educators and parents had previously gathered in Safra Square in Jerusalem on Thursday evening to demonstrate against the change with the slogan, “Cheapen the after-school activities, keep working conditions.”

Meretz MK Ilan Gilon addressed Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday and called the issue a “real violation of the terms of employment of about 400 workers of after school centers in Jerusalem.”

“Once again the standard practice in your office is to cut and apply reforms at the expense of the weak in society.

I ask for your intervention as soon as possible to prevent worsening conditions for hundreds of workers.”
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