High school teachers threaten to join back-to-school strike

The Secondary School Teachers' Organization will join the September 1 teachers’ strike unless the Finance Ministry resolves negotiations swiftly.

 NEW TEACHERS run a summer school, located at Alonei Yitzhak in the North, as part of the training they receive from Hotam. (photo credit: HOTAM)
NEW TEACHERS run a summer school, located at Alonei Yitzhak in the North, as part of the training they receive from Hotam.
(photo credit: HOTAM)

As negotiations between the Teachers Union and the Finance Ministry remain in a tight deadlock, another player has threatened to strike. As the September 1 start of the school year approaches, Secondary School Teachers Organization chairman Ran Erez said his members will join the union in holding a back-to-school strike unless the Finance Ministry meets the SSTO’s demands.

“We have reached the 90th minute, and if agreements are not signed in the coming days, we will not open the school year,” he wrote in a letter to the members of the SSTO. “We are saying this now, not only to you, but also to the Finance Ministry, the local authority and the Education Ministry so that no one will say we are dragging out the negotiations until August 31.”

The onus of responsibility for the last-minute nature of the negotiations falls on the shoulders of the Finance Ministry, Erez said.

“We have no interest in straining the community of teachers and parents, and we tell everyone that the ball has been in the Finance Ministry’s hands for more than three weeks,” he wrote. “The entire responsibility rests solely on them.”

In response, the Finance Ministry said: “In recent weeks, several draft agreements on these matters have been placed before the [SSTO]...The organization has so far refused to sign the existing proposals, and the parties have agreed to discuss in the coming days in order to bridge gaps.”

 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)

These claims echo the accusations of Ran Shai, chairman of the National Student Council, made during an interview with Radio 103FM last week.

“Negotiations started early,” he said. “Already in January, the Education Ministry came to the Finance Ministry and the Teachers Union and asked to bring a new salary agreement. Since then, it seems that we are only being delayed.”

Further condemnation for the Finance Ministry mishandling of negotiations came from Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, preceding her call to Prime Minister Yair Lapid to intervene.

“Despite my efforts in recent months, and the extensive compromises and agreements I have reached with the Teachers Union, I see time and time again that the officials of the Finance Ministry are not interested in reaching a real solution and are not interested in reaching agreements,” she said. “Again and again I find that the Finance Ministry is indifferent to the danger that the school year won’t open, despite my many efforts over the last few months to prevent it.”

Still no solutions

Negotiations between the Teachers Union and the Finance Ministry are at a standstill. On Sunday, the two parties met to find a suitable compromise, but they found none and scheduled another meeting on Monday.

The union is threatening a teachers’ strike on the first day of school, September 1, unless the government can muster a solution to their concerns, namely, that teachers in Israel are vastly underpaid, resulting in a severe lack of competent staff and educational resources.

While the Finance Ministry has made the union an offer that included raising the monthly salary of starting teachers from about NIS 6,000 to NIS 9,000, they refused due to other aspects of the offer that would reward teachers based on “merit” rather than seniority, claiming that such a clause is “vague” and skirting central union concerns.

Over the course of Sunday, Lapid met with Liberman, followed by Shasha-Biton, as well as Teachers Union head Yaffa Ben David. Despite Lapid’s involvement, the beginning of the school year remains in flux.