Kindergarten strike ends in J'lem, national school strike looms

Mayor Barkat reaches agreement with municipality employees.

Barkat press conference 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Barkat press conference 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat reached an agreement with municipal employees on Thursday afternoon, ending a strike that had kept most of the city's kindergartens, as well as nursery schools and some elementary schools, closed since the academic year began on Tuesday. Municipal workers in the schools include kindergarten assistant teachers, janitors, secretaries and cleaners. Garbage pickups and parking inspectors had also been affected by the labor sanctions in the capital. Barkat managed to keep 20 schools in the city open earlier on Thursday, by reaching a last-minute deal with private cleaning companies to clean the institutions in place of the municipal workers. Meanwhile, local government heads across the country threatened to close the schools in their jurisdictions as early as next week, after they learned on Wednesday that their annual education budgets had been cut rather than increased. The notices came nine months later than they should have, the local leaders said, and they were amazed to discover that budgets were slashed by 17-20 percent compared with last year, after they were promised by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz that their funding would be increased. "Apparently there is no meaning to the word 'agreement' in Israel," Union of Local Authorities chairman Shlomo Buhbut said. "The prime minister never intended to keep his promises to the Treasury. I demand that the government of Israel return funds that were cut from the budgets and cancel the latest 'drought levy,' which takes Israel back to the 'austerity period' of the 1950s. We won't let this happen," Buhbut said. "We have no money to pay salaries, not this month and not next month," he continued. "Next week we will hold a general assembly, and afterwards we will have no choice but to hold a strike. There will be chaos and then the government will return the funds. It's inconceivable that the state decided to finally destroy the local councils." Buhbut called on the Forum of 15 large cities, headed by Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, to join his struggle.