Agreement ends senior lecturers strike

All sides agree to proposal forwarded by Histadrut head; students to receive revised schedule Sunday.

strike 224.88 (photo credit: Student Union/ Ben Gurion Unversity)
strike 224.88
(photo credit: Student Union/ Ben Gurion Unversity)
After the longest university strike in Israeli history, students will finally be back in classes on Sunday morning. University heads vowed that all students would be able to complete a full academic year and that a revised schedule would be published on Sunday. As the fine points of a final agreement between senior lecturers and the government were ironed out Friday and the agreement was being signed, Junior staff lecturers announced a labor dispute of their own. Junior and senior staff relations remained strained since the previous lengthy university strike of 1994, when the senior lecturers signed an agreement which excluded their junior colleagues. Senior staff receive considerably more privileges and protection, not least among these being the tenure status. The lecturers, most of them young doctorate students and doctors, are demanding compensation similar to that the senior staff will receive in the impending agreement with the Treasury. The junior lecturers announced that if their issues are not resolved, they will resort to more severe organizational measures. Throughout Thursday night and into Friday morning, representatives from the Senior Lecturers Union (SLU) and the Finance Ministry worked to formulate an agreement to end the strike. The parties signed a deal based on Histadrut Labor Federation head Ofer Eini's compromise proposal. The outcome was reached after disagreements over the lecturers' pension funds were resolved. Eini's proposal was accepted by the Finance Ministry, the SLU, the Committee of University Presidents and the Education Ministry. The SLU had taken Eini's proposal to a late night negotiating session on Thursday with Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and senior Treasury officials, in an attempt to save the fall university semester. It was the first time Bar-On had met with the lecturers since the strike began 88 days ago. Eini proposed a 15.3 percent raise to compensate for wage erosion from 1997 to 2006. In addition, a future wage erosion mechanism of 1.5% per year from 2007-2015 will be put in place. Finally, Eini will include the lecturers in the 4.7% wage increase he secured for all public sector employees as well as any future raises he secures for the sector. The compensation will be dealt out in 3 payments by the end of 2009. In response to the breakthrough in negotiations, Head of the senior lecturers' union, Prof. Tzvi HaCohen, said, "The agreement which we reached is unprecedented, and we are positive that it will significantly reduce the brain drain." "The education minister and the head of the Histadrut played a significant part in the negotiations. We thank Ofer Eini for his help, and the strong backing he gave the senior lecturers. We also thank the education minister. This is a good day for higher education and for the State of Israel," he added. Earlier this week university presidents laid down an ultimatum, threatening to close down universities if an agreement was not reached by Friday at noon, an ultimatum that prompted the sides to iron out a deal.