PMO, students at odds over meeting

Students demand that Olmert meet with them to discuss their concern that tuitions will be raised.

student strike 2 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
student strike 2 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The student unions and the Prime Minister's Office were at odds Wednesday over a canceled meeting between student leaders and the prime minister coming in the wake of student strikes that have shut down public universities and colleges for nine days. The students have demanded that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meet with them to discuss their concern that the Shochat Committee will recommend raising tuition. After a late-February agreement between the unions and Yuli Tamir fell through, the students declared they would only negotiate with the prime minister himself. According to the unions, a representative of Olmert called the heads of the two student unions to inform them that a meeting would be scheduled soon. Representatives later said "conditions were not right" for such a meeting. According to contradictory reports, the agreement to meet with the students came from Olmert himself, never took place or was conditional on the offer not leaking to the press. Meanwhile on Wednesday, the lecturer's union agreed to end its one-day strike after reaching an agreement with Tamir that the Shochat Committee's recommendations regarding lecturers' wage scheme and enacting personal contracts would not be implemented without negotiation with the lecturers' unions. The deal drew fire from committee chairman Avraham Shochat himself, who said it was "a very bad and embarrassing document" that will severely hinder the government from implementing the committee's recommendations for reform and for streamlining the management of the institutions [of higher education]." The continuing high school teachers' strike grew angrier Wednesday as the Secondary School Teachers Organization announced it would delay the matriculation exams scheduled to be taken by high schoolers on Thursday. On Monday, the National Labor Court ordered the teachers to continue preparing their pupils for the matriculation exams, but did not require them to stop their strike in any subject not related to the exams. According to the SSTO, the delay did not break the court order, since it did not constitute a cancellation. Rather, SSTO officials said, the exams would take place as required immediately following the strikes. Education Ministry officials have threatened to return to the court by next week if the teachers continued to prevent the exams from taking place.