Strikes loom as teachers' union digs in on reform

No meetings yet scheduled to try to break the impasse, with the SSTO claiming that the Finance Ministry keeps canceling scheduled talks.

By RORY KRESS
September 11, 2007 20:48
2 minute read.
Strikes loom as teachers' union digs in on reform

student strike class 298. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Further strike action by the Secondary School Teachers' Organization (SSTO), which last Friday held a one-day strike, is looking increasingly likely after the High Holy Day period. The SSTO on Tuesday made plain it was still rejecting Finance Ministry appeals for it to join an education reform process agreed to by the other major teachers' union, the National Teachers' Union (NTU). And no meetings have yet been scheduled to try to break the impasse, with the SSTO claiming that the Finance Ministry keeps canceling scheduled talks. The reform process finalized this week by the Finance Ministry, the Education Ministry and the NTU provides for changes at 300 schools across the country immediately, and all schools nationwide by 2012. Teachers' salaries will rise by 30 percent, taking the starting teachers' salary to NIS 5,300 per month - higher than that of a worker with an academic degree employed in the public sector. Future promotions and pay increases will be merit-based, dependent on positive evaluations, replacing the current seniority-based system. Principals will see their authority and responsibility expanded: They will now evaluate all teachers under their supervision and run the hiring and tenure decision processes. Pay for principals will correspond directly to the complexity and size of their posts. The reforms, to be implemented over a six-year period, will cost an estimated NIS 5 billion. Eli Cohen, head of budgets for the Finance Ministry, praised the NTU for showing "national responsibility, and utilizing this window of opportunity in order to strengthen the status of teachers in Israel and to move forward the education of Israel's children." Cohen called on the SSTO to follow suit. Similarly, Shmuel Abuav, Director-General of the Education Ministry, urged SSTO head Ran Erez to join the process so that "high school students will also have the privilege of benefiting from the reforms." But SSTO representative Keren Shaked told The Jerusalem Post that a speedy resolution of the impasse was unlikely, especially given the holiday period. "We hope that they will sit with us during the few days between the holidays, and seriously start to find a solution, because [right now] there isn't any progress," said Shaked, noting that the Finance Ministry had cancelled three meetings with the SSTO. Shaked said the Education Ministry "understands and supports our demands but has no authority to make decisions." "If they want to have a strike, they will have a strike," a Finance Ministry representative retorted, adding that her office would not seek another Labor Court decision to bar a strike. "We offered [the SSTO] as much as we could: over 5 billion in education reform, higher salaries and a [revised] system of employment… We want them to adopt the reform and that's it."

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