Yuli Tamir 88 224.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Most of Israel's junior high and high schools will be shut down beginning Wednesday, the Secondary School Teachers Organization announced Sunday evening. The mid-week timing of the planned strike is meant to allow Education Minister Yuli Tamir to return from a trip abroad Tuesday, ahead of the strike.
The Jewish state schools will be shut starting Wednesday, with the Arab schools expected to follow a week later, on October 17.
"This will be a months-long strike, and we can withstand it," vowed SSTO head Ran Erez.
"Hopefully," he added, "the government will understand that cheap education takes a heavy toll on our children."
Erez has repeatedly called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to arbitrate between the SSTO and the Finance Ministry, which the union accuses of refusing to negotiate a collective wage agreement for the past two years. The last wage agreement expired in 2001.
Olmert has firmly refused to enter the fray. Following a Friday meeting with the education minister, Erez indicated that there was little reason to continue meeting with Tamir, since only the Finance Ministry was empowered to make deals regarding the teachers' demands.
To prepare for a possible months-long strike, the SSTO is preparing rebate-free loans, alternate employment ("some of which will earn more than the teaching jobs they are leaving," Erez quipped) and a special fund for single-parent families, families in which both parents are striking teachers, and those hit hardest by the possible loss of salaries if the strike gets longer.
The union has come under criticism for failing to reach a wage agreement despite the fact that the much-larger National Teachers Union reached a wage agreement with the Finance Ministry in May that gave a significant salary increase to elementary school teachers.
Opinions are divided about that accord, with estimations running from "historic" and "important" to "scandalous" and even "stupid."
On Sunday, Erez responded to this critique by declaring, "Even if I was drunk, I wouldn't sign this agreement. It's not just bad, it turns teachers into slaves" - referring to the increased power of school principals to fire underperforming teachers and the higher work-hour demands placed on them in exchange for their higher salaries.
"Under no circumstances will we sign this deal," he vowed.