Gov't, teachers meet in labor court

Tamir: 90% of conflict based on mistrust of gov't; Ran Erez says strike will probably continue Sunday.

school strike 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
school strike 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Despite efforts to bridge gaps with the government, high school teachers will probably not be returning to work on Sunday, Ran Erez, the head of the Secondary School Teachers Organization (SSTO) told Israel Radio Friday during a break in talks at the National Labor Court. During negotiations, Finance Ministry Wage Director Eli Cohen offered to freeze for two weeks the government's demand that injunctions be issued to force the teachers back to work, if the teachers agreed to stop striking during those two weeks, Israel Radio said. Education Minister Yuli Tamir said during the negotiations that she would act to lower the number of students in classrooms and return teaching hours that were cut. The teachers, however, told the judges that they would not call off the strike until they were granted an immediate raise in salary effective immediately in exchange for the implementation of education reforms. They also insisted that the government commit to gradually reducing the number of students per classroom and returning, immediately, the teaching hours that were cut. Earlier Friday, Tamir told Army Radio that 90 percent of the teachers' conflict with the government stemmed from their mistrust of the authorities. "The other 10% comes from their inability to reach a decision," she said. As the secondary school teachers' strike entered its 28th day, Tamir expressed hope that mistrust could be resolved by the National Labor Court. "The teachers are afraid that anything they don't get immediately, they won't get at all. The court will give them the assurance that all agreements will be honored," she said. Government representatives convened with members of the SSTO at the court at 10 a.m. Friday, to present judge Steve Adler with the results of their negotiations. The Finance Ministry and the Education Ministry claim to have offered the SSTO a collective wage agreement which includes a ten percent raise, to be added incrementally over a period of three years. The government further announced it would be obligated to implement a reform in the secondary school system, adding an additional 26% to teachers' wages as part of the reform. The reform would obligate the teachers to take upon themselves additional teaching hours. While government officials expressed cautious optimism on Thursday evening that an agreement was near, saying the strike could end by Sunday, the SSTO downplayed reports of progress in negotiations. "There are no serious negotiations," SSTO administration member Avi Pascal told Army Radio. "The finance and education ministries are counting on the court to force teachers back to school with injunction orders. They're counting on the court to act as their executive arm and thus have made no concessions in the negotiations."