School strike talks face new challenges

Government and SSTO exchange blows; some progress reported as new offer put on the table.

ran erez 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
ran erez 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Secondary School Teachers' Organization (SSTO) is refraining from reaching an agreement with the government in order to allow for a mass demonstration to take place at Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on Saturday, Finance Ministry Director-General Yarom Ariav hinted on Army Radio Wednesday. "To stand in that square and look out upon the masses is a wonderful feeling, and an intoxicating thing, but it is no reason to delay students from returning to school," Ariav said. "The strike must not become an ends instead of a means. The purpose is to improve the quality of education in Israel," he said. SSTO Chairman Ran Erez said in response that Ariav's insinuations were nonsense, adding that he was surprised that a man of his position should err in such speculation. Erez stated that if an agreement was reached by Saturday, the rally at Rabin Square would be held in the Finance Ministry's honor. Ariav added that while some progress had been made Tuesday evening in the form of a new offer to the SSTO, teachers opposed the ministry's requirement that additional hours be added to their schedule in return. The new offer referenced by Ariav is believed to be one proposed by Histadrut head Ofer Eini, who launched a full-out effort on Tuesday to help bring the secondary schoolteachers strike to a close. Eini, Education Minister Yuli Tamir, Secondary School Teachers Organization (SSTO) head Ran Erez, and top officials from the Finance Ministry met with Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On at the Treasury for five hours Tuesday night to discuss his new proposal. The main point of Eini's proposal is a combined 13.5 percent immediate raise for the teachers in return for a commitment to the Education Ministry's reform plan. Five percent of the raise would come from the agreement for public sector officials already worked out and 8.5% would be just for the teachers. Also included in his proposal are the issues of fewer students per class and adding more teaching hours in return for higher wages.