High school students spend time together after class..
(photo credit: MOSHE MILNER)
Less than a month after high school teachers called off a strike over wages and working conditions, the Teachers’ Union on Monday announced it intends to launch a nationwide strike on Wednesday.
The strike will affect all grades throughout the country – from kindergarten through high school – with the exception of special education institutions and schools in communities surrounding the Gaza Strip, which will operate as usual.
The union is drawing attention to the Education Ministry taking 1.4 days of sick leave from a teacher’s accrued time for each day a teacher takes off due to illness.
“This behavior of the Education Ministry was only recently discovered when the ministry began to list on the payment slips, as the law dictates, the number of sick days that were accrued and the number of sick days that were taken,” a union statement read.
The statement said the union raised the issue with the ministry “some time ago” and that the ministry was “dragging its feet and not providing a clear answer to this known problem.”
Union head Yaffa Ben-David said, “We will not agree to a scandal in which a teacher or kindergarten teacher is sick for one day but it counts for a day-and-a-half. I do not know one worker in the economy who would agree to work under such a condition.”
Ben-David said she was “embarrassed” by the ministry’s lack of response.
“It is obvious to everyone that the current condition is not right. The same officials who sit with us in meetings would act completely different if it were their sick days,” she said.
Teachers will “stand by the rights we deserve just like any other worker,” Ben-David said. “The time has come [to] stop mixing us into formulas they themselves do not understand. Like how does one sick day or day off for a teacher equal 1.4 sick days? We will not agree to this under any circumstance.”
The Education Ministry responded by issuing a statement that said it sympathizes with the teachers but believes a strike is not the proper way to resolve the issue.
“The Education Ministry sees the teachers as the backbone of the system and it greatly works to advance their rights. As proof, recently it promoted the salaries of teachers. In this case too, the ministry is sitting on the ground with the Teachers’ Union in talks to jointly advance the interests of the teachers,” the statement said.
It added that the policy of sick days was determined decades ago and the issue requires “orderly deliberation around the table” with the aim of “improving the conditions of the teachers.”
“However, the decision to shut down the system is irresponsible and harms the students and the parents. The ministry will not allow any harm to these important groups and will act with all the tools at its disposal to prevent the strike,” it said.