Gov't, teachers reach agreement at end of marathon talks

Deal still needs to be finalized, includes 8.5% wage increase, 2 additional classroom hours per week, enhanced status of school principals.

Erez Treasury 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Erez Treasury 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
At the end of 20-hour talks which stretched into the early hours of Thursday morning, and just hours before the activation of court injunctions ordering teachers back to work, an agreement was reached between the government and the Secondary School Teachers Organization (SSTO). The two sides announced at around 7.30 a.m. that the negotiations had concluded and that a deal would shortly be signed. They said that after the 65-day strike, pupils and teachers would return to secondary schools throughout the country Thursday morning, without the activation of the court orders. The agreement reportedly includes a salary increase for teachers of 8.5 percent in exchange for two more classroom hours per week and extra time teaching small groups of pupils and performing other activities. The deal also includes an enhanced status of school principals and reduced class sizes, the extent of which was still unclear. Sources close to the talks told Israel Radio that said that that during negotiations, Erez and National Teachers Union Chairman Yossi Vasserman had objected to several clauses of the proposed deal and that the Treasury and Education Ministry had been "causing difficulties" regarding certain points previously agreed upon. The eventual agreement was in keeping with a plan suggested by Histadrut Labor Federation chairman Ofer Eini in October. During the overnight talks, aimed at ending the 65-day strike ahead of the activation of the court orders, SSTO head Ran Erez stressed that "serious" discussions were taking place about reforms in the education system. Speaking to teachers waiting expectantly outside the meeting room, Erez said: "We are fighting over every word and every figure." The negotiations had been taking place at the highest level, according to government officials, who noted that for more than eight hours of marathon negotiations on Wednesday, only Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On, Erez and an SSTO adviser were in the room.