Lecturers accept Eini's proposal to end strike

NUIS head warns lecturers not to sign wage agreement based on Shochat C'tee recommendation to increase student tuition.

Eini 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Eini 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Senior Lecturers Union (SLU) on Thursday night accepted Histadrut Labor Federation head Ofer Eini's compromise proposal to end the lecturers strike. The SLU had taken Eini's proposal to a late night negotiating session with Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and senior Treasury officials, in an attempt to save the fall university semester. It is the first time Bar-On has met with the lecturers since the strike began 88 days ago. Eini has 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 would be put in place, Finally, Eini would 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. Earlier Thursday, Bar-On addressed the strike. "I am prepared to meet with all parties involved to end the lecturers strike," he said at the annual conference of the Israel Manufacturers Association in Tel Aviv. "But I will not accept a proposal or agreement that does not include a component of the Shochat reforms. I will not pay money without providing a solution for higher education." Bar-On criticized the striking senior lecturers for making "exaggerated" demands during the numerous attempts to end the dispute. "We bear responsibility for the state of higher education, but so do the lecturers," he said. "They have turned down every single offer, and even when they talked with Eini they made exaggerated demands for salary erosion percentages." The Senior Lecturers Union said it was Bar-On who had thwarted any chance for an agreement. The National Union of Israeli Students threw its support behind Eini's proposal and called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Education Minister Yuli Tamir to accept it immediately, "in order to send the students back to their studies by Sunday morning." Earlier in the day, Tamir predicted that the strike would be over by Friday and called on Olmert to intervene and to support Eini's proposal. Itay Shonshine, head of the National Union of Israeli Students, called on the lecturers not to sign an agreement that would give them a raise based on the Shochat Committee's recommendation to increase student tuition. "It cannot be that the student leadership has given full support to the professors' struggle and shown wide and deep solidarity, while the lecturers sign an agreement at their expense. If the lecturers sign such a shameful deal, the union will strike all the universities starting next week," he said in a statement. Students actively protested against the strike on Thursday. Several students blocked Highway 1 between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with their cars in the early morning. Meanwhile, the Committee of University Presidents held an urgent logistical meeting to figure out how to shut down the universities on Sunday. The committee announced after the meeting that it would still hold end-of-semester exams for courses taught by junior and external lecturers. The exams are scheduled to take place in the next two weeks, and will go ahead even if the semester is canceled, the committee said. In addition, the presidents confirmed their decision to shut down all but absolutely essential services starting Sunday.