Some 400 educators and assistants working in the 150 afters-school programs in Jerusalem went on strike Tuesday to protest deteriorating employment conditions.

One of their complaints centered on the Jerusalem Municipality’s decision to implement longer days at the after-school centers for the second year in a row – a move that provided more activities for children, but negatively impacted the workers’ salaries.

The educators also said the city refused to take seniority into consideration when fixing salaries.

“We welcome the municipality’s intention to continue the longer activity days, but why do so at the expense of the workers?” said workers’ union representative Sarah Sela.

Another of the problematic conditions, the educators explained, was that after-school programs were only eligible to employ an assistant if the center hosted 30 or more toddlers, creating a difficult situation for programs just below the threshold.

The municipality responded in a statement that it had worked extensively this year to improve the employment conditions of educators in after-school programs – “way beyond the budgeting at its disposal from the ministries of Education and Finance.”

According to the municipality, “the after-school program assistants in Jerusalem are paid on the basis of a monthly salary, unlike in all the other municipalities in the country, where after-school programs’ workers receive an hourly wage.”

It added that the city had “worked with parents and increased the educators’ salaries by about 50 percent over the amount determined by the Education Ministry.”

The municipality took the educators to task for the strike, which it called “unnecessary” and said was “offending parents.”

“Striking at a time when children are back in kindergartens after an extended vacation, is a threat with serious implications for parents who, in order to be able to work, use this very important service,” it said, adding that this “attempt to extort the city during a period of municipal elections is foolish and will not succeed.”

The Parents Association said that the strike, which happened on short notice, showed the educators’ lack of responsibility toward parents who, because they were not given time to find alternative arrangements, were forced to leave work and pick up their children in the middle of the day.

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