High school strike continues as negotiations founder

Despite proposed raise in salaries, sides do not reach agreement on other aspects of reform.

Teachers rally 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 10)
Teachers rally 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 10)
The high school strike continued into its 35th day after a late night meeting on Sunday between the parties ended abruptly and without progress. Histadrut head Ofer Eini hosted Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Secondary School Teachers Organization (SSTO) head Ran Erez, Treasury Wage Director Eli Cohen, and Finance Ministry Dir.-Gen. Yarom Ariav in an attempt to reach agreement based on Eini's proposal from last week. Eini proposed a 13.5-percent immediate wage increase and discussion of reducing class size and adding more teaching hours to the schedule. Eini reportedly ended the meeting when it became clear Finance Ministry representatives and Erez could not come to any sort of agreement regarding the non-salary parts of the reform. Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made clear that he was not going to intervene in the negotiations. "We don't need extraneous dramas. We don't need the prime minister to sit down with the head of the SSTO. It's enough that the education minister and finance minister do so," Olmert said during an event in Beersheba. "A teacher's job is one of the most challenging and most important there is in the state. There was ongoing discrimination with regards to teachers' salaries in relation to their status and importance. We need to fix that, but that is impossible from one day to the next. We are ready to raise salaries by 26-34% and that is a dramatic and unprecented increase," he added. Meanwhile, the senior lecturers' strike also continued into its fifth week. While Olmert was saying he would not get involved in the high school teachers' strike, the Conference of University Presidents (CUP) called on him to get involved in the university strike. "We have come to the conclusion that your personal involvement is the only way to free this wagon which has stuck deep, deep in the mud," Prof. Moshe Kaveh, head of CUP and president of Bar-Ilan University wrote. "We know from personal experience that your personal involvement can expedite processes to solve difficult crises that seem unsolvable - that's how it was during the negotiations over the universities' budgets which was successfully solved only after you appointed your senior aide, Mr. Ovadia Yehezkel, to enter into the negotiations between us and the Treasury," Kaveh added. Kaveh also called for Olmert to appoint a senior representative to take charge of the negotiations in this case. While CUP was sending a letter to Olmert, the National Union of Israeli Students sent CUP a letter calling for a refund of their tuition money. This was the second such letter sent. This time it was sent via a lawyer and threatened legal action.