(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Histradrut Labor Federation Chairman Ofer Eini on Wednesday accused the Finance Ministry of trying to torpedo an agreement reached between the Education Ministry and the Secondary School Teachers' Organization (SSTO) to end the teachers' strike.
Any agreement would require the approval of the Finance Ministry, and sources close to the negotiations said that the ministry's wage director, Eli Cohen, opposed the deal.
"There is an agreed outline of a deal between the education minister and [SSTO head] Ran Erez; an outline that I believe National Teachers Union head Yossi Vaserman also agrees with," Eini told Army Radio.
Despite his accusation, Eini said there were some Finance Ministry officials that would accept the deal and expressed hope that the strike would end Thursday. "We need to sit and hold serious talks to try and finalize the agreements so we can bring Israel's schoolchildren back to class tomorrow," he said.
Education Minister Yuli Tamir told Israel Radio that the agreement would see teachers' salaries increase by 37 percent. The manner and timetable of the pay raise was yet to be decided, Tamir said.
The strike entered its 26th day Wednesday after the National Labor Court decided the previous night not to issue injunctions that would force the teachers back to work. Instead, the court's president Steve Adler instructed the two sides to immediately open intensive talks which he himself would supervise.
The SSTO and Finance Ministry were set to submit a document to the National Labor Court later Wednesday detailing progress made in negotiations to end the strike.
Tamir told Army Radio earlier Wednesday that the teachers were determined for negotiations to progress and she expressed hope that the crisis would soon be resolved. Regarding the senior [university] lecturers' strike, however, Tamir said there had been no progress in the past week.
"Due to recent progress between the sides, it is now much easier to come to an agreement, and I hope yesterday's court hearing will enable a deal to be reached quickly. There has been an essential change in the teachers' position, but I cannot say the same regarding the university lecturers."
Education Ministry Director-General Shlomit Amihai said that despite the state's appeal to the National Labor Court, its intention was not for an injunction to be issued but for a framework to be proposed for negotiations.
"We want to see an end to the strike but we never wanted the teachers to be forced by an injunction to return to work," Amihai told Army Radio.