school children teacher .
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Teachers in grades one, two, 11 and 12 began striking for the entire school day Wednesday in state schools throughout the country.
The teachers' unions declared on Tuesday that they would strike in several grade levels on Wednesday to protest what they called the "slow" negotiations over wage agreements with the Finance Ministry.
The unions said the strike is a "warning" of more to come.
The partial strike followed a two-hour strike on Thursday last week and a December 20 threat to completely shut down the educational system if the Finance Ministry remained steadfast in its refusal to negotiate a collective salary agreement for teachers, which has been lacking since 2001.
Following the urging of Education Minister Yuli Tamir and others in late December, the Finance Ministry and the unions began a negotiation process.
The Finance Ministry protested that the strike "was not surprising, but its cause is known only to the teachers' organizations."
The ministry has protested that the teachers' strikes come despite significant advances in negotiations and reflect a lack of goodwill on their part. Finance ministry representatives have said that negotiations were progressing, and that the ministry's salary department has reached an agreement with teachers' unions leaders according to which teachers would receive some NIS 500 each in January to compensate for a drop in the value of the salary compared to the consumer price index.
Meanwhile, student groups said they would go on strike in 27 colleges around the country as part of ongoing student protests over the Shochat Committee established to examine the future of higher education. The students will reportedly demonstrate at intersections throughout the country and will beg for money from passing motorists.
They plan to send any money donated by passing motorists to the Education Ministry in a symbolic act of protest over budget cuts to higher education.
The National Union of Israeli Students went on strike last week in ten universities and colleges protesting the establishment of the Shochat Committee, which is seen as supportive of Finance Ministry proposals that seek to institute differential wages for lecturers and to increase tuition for students. The lecturers' unions also told The Jerusalem Post last week they planned to join the student protests if the students' demands to disband the committee were not met.