roni bar on 224.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Secondary School Teachers Organization rejected Education Minister Yuli Tamir's offer to prevent a strike set to begin on Wednesday, Army Radio reported on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, Tamir offered the teachers an option of extending wage negotiations over a period of five months.
The strike is set to begin Wednesday with no time limit, in all secondary Jewish schools.
Any hope of preventing a strike at high schools and junior high schools seemed to fall by the wayside Monday as both Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and Secondary School Teachers Organization head Ran Erez stood fast in their demands.
The teachers were expected to close down the schools in the Jewish sector for an indefinite period, starting on Wednesday, with those in the Arab sector closing down a week later, after Id al-Fitr.
While presenting the 2008 state budget to the Knesset Finance Committee on Monday morning, Bar-On declared that there would be no additional funds for a deal with the secondary school teachers, beyond the funds budgeted for the new wage scheme agreed on with the larger elementary school teachers' union, the National Teachers Union.
"NIS 1.3 billion is waiting for them," said Bar-On. "They only need to reach out and take it."
Bar-On also said he was amazed at union head Erez's decision to declare the strike, calling him a man "who allows himself to enter a tunnel when he doesn't know where the exit is."
"I'm glad the finance minister is so honest," said Erez after the committee meeting, "telling everyone we won't be getting anything." He told journalists "the Finance Ministry wants us as cheap labor," and vowed not to accept the deal struck with the National Teachers Union.
Earlier Monday morning, Erez met with senior Education Ministry officials. Just as in Friday's meeting with Education Minister Yuli Tamir, nothing was agreed on, though ministry officials said it created more possibilities for negotiations and was conducted "in a positive atmosphere."
An 11th hour meeting between Erez and Tamir is planned for Tuesday, and Erez took pains on Monday to compliment the minister "for trying to broker a deal," a change from his earlier complaint that Tamir was not part of the negotiations because she was not empowered to negotiate over the union's financial demands.
As the deadline approached, many in high school student organizations, parents' committees and even MKs have called on the sides to come to terms. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has refused to enter the fray despite repeated calls from Erez; on Monday the Forum of Parents Organizations' Chairmen called on the prime minister to reconsider. The forum has blasted Erez's decision to strike, saying an extended closure would cause "irreparable" damage to the nation's children.
Knesset Education Committee Chairman Michael Melchior (Labor-Meimad) called on "both sides to sit down to nonstop negotiations until white smoke rises," since a strike would result in "destruction to the national education system."