Liberman presents ‘generous offer’ to Israel’s Teachers Union

Two weeks before schools resume, Israel’s Finance Ministry proposed an agreement to ease concerns over working conditions

 Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at a cabinet meeting on 24/07/2022. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman at a cabinet meeting on 24/07/2022.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

“I hear that there are those who are sure that a government two months before elections will not be able to afford a strike, and there is an actual attempt here to take the students and parents hostage,” Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Wednesday in response to the possibility of teachers’ strike on the first day of school, September 1. “Violent and thuggish conduct will not pay off.”

The minister’s stern warning was issued at a press conference on Wednesday, just two weeks before the school year begins. The conference was convened in order to present the Finance Ministry’s plan to appease the Teachers Union, which has led a series of strikes, protests and general expressions of dissatisfaction at the poor conditions for workers in the education sector.

What is Israel’s Finance Ministry proposing?

Liberman presented a proposal for an agreement with the union formulated in collaboration with the Education Ministry and others. The proposal aims to address several core issues in the education system.

The main points of the proposal include, among others, an NIS 9,000 per month starting salary for full-time employees, salary increases for administrative staff and school principals, bonuses for job longevity, minimum wage regulations for specialty positions, 100% salary for interns, and variable adjusted vacation days.

 Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton visits students at the Ramon School in Modi'in, on October 12, 2021 (credit:  YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90) Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton visits students at the Ramon School in Modi'in, on October 12, 2021 (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

“We are two weeks before the start of the school year and the parents are still in uncertainty, along with the children. This negotiation could have ended a long time ago. The state has money and there are [possible] agreements. There are officials in the ministry who aren’t interested in the children, nor the teachers nor the parents.”

 Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton

Liberman said that due to pressure from the union, he felt compelled to quickly present his “generous offer.” He said he found himself in “a situation where there is no choice,” forcing the ministry to put the entire outline on the table immediately, despite the inability to finalize the details until Sunday.

He noted, however, that the situation presents a quandary, as industry-wide salary increases are a zero-sum game.

“This is the first time since the establishment of the state that the budget of the Education Ministry is larger than any other budget, including the Defense Ministry,” Liberman said. “We are currently exposed to wage claims of the order of 40 billion shekels. It is also policemen and doctors and assistants and a package deal. There are countless wage claims. Everything that we sign with the teachers, by extension, will also affect others.”

In an interview with Ynet, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton hinted at the process of negotiations with the union.

“We managed to bring the teachers to a lot of agreements,” she said, including the decided starting salary, which was a compromise from the Union’s demanded NIS 10,500 per month.

She reprimanded the ministry’s tardiness in addressing the issue, having only now proposed an agreement.

“We are two weeks before the start of the school year and the parents are still in uncertainty, along with the children. This negotiation could have ended a long time ago. The state has money and there are [possible] agreements,” Shasha-Biton said. “There are officials in the ministry who aren’t interested in the children, nor the teachers nor the parents.”