Strike generates confusion at universities

Despite senior lecturers' absence, some classes go ahead.

By ABAYE SILBER, RENI SHULMAN, , ALEX GELLER
October 21, 2007 22:31
2 minute read.
Strike generates confusion at universities

hebrew university 224.88. (photo credit: Hebrew University )

 
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The senior lecturers' strike in universities across the country enters its second day on Monday after negotiations between the Finance and Education ministries failed to produce a new wage agreement on Sunday. The Senior Lecturers Union announced the strike on Saturday night after extensive talks between the union, Education Minister Yuli Tamir and Finance Ministry Wage Director Eli Cohen on compensating lecturers for wage erosion broke down. "In other workplaces, people are promoted every couple of years, and this translates into rising salaries," Senior Lecturers Union head Prof. Zvi Hacohen said. "But in academia, promotions are few and rare, because rank isn't attached to salary. So if you don't raise [academics'] wages, the salary's [real value] shrinks. We want a mechanism that will automatically take care of this, and not to fight every time for the same salary." The strike at the start of the new school year affected Tel Aviv University, Ben-Gurion University in the Negev, the University of Haifa, the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Haifa's Technion. Some 4,500 senior lecturers participated in the strike, while junior lecture staff and independent lecturers continued classes as scheduled. Prior to the strike, the Council of University Presidents urged students to check if their lectures were taking place by coming to class. Not only did many lectures carry on, administrative units and libraries remained open as well. Ari, a doctoral student at Hebrew University who asked that his last name not be published, described the "confusion" that the strike has created among students. He explained that on Sunday morning at the Givat Ram campus, he arrived at one lecture and found that his professor was on strike, while his afternoon lecture went on as planned. "Students are left in the dark and have not gotten word about which classes are canceled," Ari said. Some students expressed support for the lecturers. "I know that the teachers are striking because they have no alternative," said Avri Schnell, a student at the Mount Scopus campus. "Everyone has to make a living." In a joint statement responding to the union's decision to strike, the Education and Finance ministries said: "In the past week, numerous meetings were held with lecturers' representatives so that the new academic year could restart as scheduled. We are greatly distressed that the academic staff has chosen the strike tactic, which will cause unnecessary harm to students and to the higher education establishment, instead of continuing with the negotiations." Meanwhile, representatives of the government and the Secondary School Teachers Organization failed on Sunday afternoon to reach a compromise on the teachers' demands and end the school strike, now in its 10th day. Israel Radio reported that SSTO leader Ran Erez said that the strike had become "a crisis of national importance." Erez said that at present, the intervention of the finance minister and the prime minister was necessary and that negotiations should continue at a level higher than the Education Ministry.

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