Lecturers must respond to petition by Sun.

Committee of University Presidents asks National Labor Court to issue back-to-work orders to end strike.

University 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
University 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
In a move roundly condemned by senior lecturers, the Committee of University Presidents (CUP) petitioned the National Labor Court on Wednesday to issue interim back-to-work orders to the professors within a week. The CUP also asked the court to prevent the professors from striking altogether after January 13, after which the semester will be lost. According to the petition, a copy of which was obtained by The Jerusalem Post, the presidents cited the lack of progress in negotiations as well as the economic cost of the strike and the cancellation of the semester as reasons to issue the orders. Interestingly, the presidents' attorney claimed that the back-to-work orders issued last month to the high-school teachers signaled a precedent that could be followed in this case as well. Traditionally, those types of court orders have been issued only when the strikers perform "essential services" to the country. However, the CUP's attorney argued that National Labor Court President Steve Adler had essentially redefined some of the criteria for issuing those orders last month. However, Tel Aviv University President Prof. Zvi Galil decided to remove his university's name from the petition on Wednesday night. The Senior Lecturers Union commended him on his decision and called on the other university presidents to follow suit. Adler did not move to issue court orders immediately, and instead granted the SLU's request to submit their response by 10 a.m. on Sunday. At the same time, he invited the lawyers for both sides to a meeting on Thursday afternoon at 1:30. An SLU spokeswoman condemned the presidents for approaching the court rather than continuing to mediate between the professors and the Treasury. "This is an unprecedented situation, taking one's own faculty to court," she said. However, she added that the professors had all of the documents to make their case and were ready to defend themselves in court. In Beersheba, meanwhile, students and lecturers took to the streets to protest the strike and closed off the city's main road for a short time. Six protesters were detained for questioning and one was reportedly injured. Rachel Metz, a student in an international program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, told the Post that about 300 students and faculty barricaded the street. "I'd say there were about 300 people, about four deep. The police came but didn't try to arrest people right away. When they did start detaining people, the crowd tried to block the police from reaching them," she said. She said the police did not violently disperse the spontaneous protest. The police said the protesters had not gotten permission to hold a rally in the middle of Beersheba's main street. Prof. Oren Yiftachi, a member of a joint faculty-student action committee at the university, told the Post they would shut down the campus on Thursday. When asked whether it was to be for just the day or a prolonged closure, he replied, "That hasn't been decided yet." Several university faculties have also begun to work towards impeaching their university presidents. The SLU spokeswoman said that the senior faculty at the Technion has begun to circulate a petition calling for the impeachment of the university's president. Similarly, the senior faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has asked the rector to call a meeting to discuss the issue, but thus far he has refused to do so, she said. The senior faculty at the Technion strongly criticized the CUP and the Technion's administration for even considering turning to the National Labor Court against their own faculty. They also threw their full support behind the strike during a general assembly meeting on Wednesday. The 200 delegates decided during the meeting to continue striking until their demands were met; namely, compensation for salary erosion and a mechanism to prevent future erosion.