Professors raise stakes in lecturers' strike

Cohen proposes giving SSTO teachers immediate 10% raise, but 26% more if they agree to education reforms.

teachers strike court  (photo credit: Channel 2)
teachers strike court
(photo credit: Channel 2)
The striking Senior Lecturers Union (SLU) has decided to draw all non-state funded programs into its labor action from next Sunday, the organization said Thursday night. "I am not surprised by the short-sighted behavior of Finance Ministry officials, but from the education minister [Yuli Tamir], a professor in Israel, I would have expected more responsible treatment which would have solved the crisis," SLU head Prof. Tzvi Hacohen said in a statement after a late evening meeting with Finance Ministry officials. Hacohen told The Jerusalem Post earlier Thursday that the lecturers are considering bringing in the students as well. "There is lots of talking but only nominal negotiating. We are considering intensifying the strike by enlisting the students. The students will understand how important this is," he said at a rally of senior lecturers outside the Treasury to protest the lack of funding for basic research. The defense establishment will not be included in the strike however, the SLU said. Meanwhile, no headway was made in the strike at high schools and some junior high schools. Despite optimistic messages issued by government officials throughout the day, the Secondary School Teachers Organization flatly denied that any progress had been made on Thursday. "The Treasury's three alternatives are really the same proposal worded differently each time. A lot of what the Treasury is presenting is like taking your wallet out of your pocket and then offering it back to you as a gift," a union spokeswoman told the Post. The National Labor Court ordered all parties to return to court at 10 a.m. Friday for more negotiations. The professors protesting outside the Treasury were quick to point say their demonstration was about the dire future of Israel's scientific academics rather than their paychecks. "How can the Knesset not understand that without research and education we won't have a future? No medicine, no defense, no army. Where's the next generation going to come from?" asked Prof. Miles Rubin of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. "The university system is crumbling. We used to have 47 faculty members, now we have 35. But we also have more students. Now there are 50 in a class whereas there used to be 30," Rubin told the Post. Prof. Evitar Nevo of the Institute of Evolution at the University of Haifa and a member of the American Academy of Sciences predicted the end of the Zionist enterprise if research collapsed in Israel. "Without science, we have no Zionist future. Zionism established a novelty, including culturally. That culture is being degraded," he angrily declared. "The tragedy is climaxing and research is declining. Scientists, especially young ones, want to go elsewhere [in the world] where they appreciate science and research." Asked about the world-class research being done in the private sector, Nevo replied, "The reality is far worse. We are praising the past and in part the present, but the future is very bleak." Martin Golumbic, professor of Computer Science and Algorithmic Discrete Mathematics at the University of Haifa, decried the loss of balance between academia and the private sector. "There needs to be a balance between the number of researchers in academia and those in the private sector. "I have funding to hire two-three post-docs and two-three doctoral students tomorrow, but the salary is not attractive enough," he said. Instead, "one student resigned from the program recently to go into industry to make more money," Golumbic said. "We don't have research assistants anymore because there are better opportunities outside of academia. In the US, they realized what was going on and made academia more competitive financially. If salaries were comparable with world rates it would solve the current imbalance or at least alleviate it," he said.