Day of meetings yields no progress towards preventing teacher's strike

The latest negotiations between the Teachers' Union and Finance Ministry will be reconvening tomorrow to find a solution rather than the teachers' going on strike.

 Israeli teachers protest as they demand better pay and working conditions in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2022. (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Israeli teachers protest as they demand better pay and working conditions in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2022.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

The latest negotiations between the Teachers Union and Finance Ministry ended on Sunday without fanfare, and were expected to reconvene on Monday.

Teachers are threatening to strike on the first day of school, September 1, unless the government raises salaries. Low wages, they say, result in a severe lack of competent staff and educational resources.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid met with Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, after which Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton met with Teachers Union head Yaffa Ben David, from whom Lapid heard about the progress of negotiations with the Finance Ministry.

In a Facebook post later on Sunday, Liberman criticized Lapid for intervening in the dispute.

“I clarified in the meeting with the prime minister and with the education minister that the [only] person who will manage the negotiations on a salary agreement is the person in charge of salaries in the Finance Ministry. We need neither spectators nor kashrut supervisors,” he wrote.

 Israeli teachers protest as they demand better pay and working conditions in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2022.  (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90) Israeli teachers protest as they demand better pay and working conditions in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2022. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

“I suggest that political figures who are a little more than two months before an election leave the management of negotiations to the professional ranks, barring extraneous considerations,” Liberman added, in a jab directed at other ministers who have recommended Lapid’s intervention.

Elaborating on the “disparities” between his ministry and the Teachers Union, he wrote, “The emphasis placed by the Teachers Union is on seniority and at the Finance Ministry the emphasis is on excellence.”

The teacher's wage gaps

The minister’s remark refers to the Teachers Union’s desire for higher salaries for starting teachers in order to narrow the wage disparity between veteran and rookie teachers. Veteran teachers can earn as much as NIS 25,346 per month, while starting teachers can make as little as NIS 5,880, according to a recent OECD report, which found Israel to have one of the world’s largest gaps in teachers’ salaries.

As a result of that wage gap, Israel faces a shortage of almost 6,000 teachers, as many teachers leave the industry soon after joining it due to financial concerns and poor work conditions.

On Wednesday, the Finance Ministry presented what Liberman referred to as a “generous offer” to the Teachers Union. It centered on a higher starting salary of NIS 9,000 per month for beginning teachers.

The Teachers Union responded, saying the offer was “vague,” and that it was not presented to them at any point during the week’s negotiations.

“This is a proposal that further harms the terms of employment of the teaching staff.”

Teachers' Union

It is probably not for nothing that the ministry refrained from raising this embarrassing proposal in negotiations with us,” the union stated. “This is a proposal that further harms the terms of employment of the teaching staff.”

The union went on to call for intervention from Lapid – a notion later echoed by Shasha-Biton on Thursday.