Talks end as university strike continues

Late-night meeting breaks down as lecturers reject Treasury offer of arbitration; strike in 10th week.

roni bar on 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
roni bar on 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A meeting late Saturday night between Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On and representatives of the Senior Lecturers Union (SLU) ended without an agreement, dragging the strike into its tenth week. During the meeting Bar-On proposed that a mutually respected arbiter be appointed to settle the issue of the erosion of lecturers' salaries since 1997. The lecturers, however, turned down the offer, claiming that, after nine weeks of striking they wished to agree on compensation without the further deferral such a move would entail. "Arbitration is a long and complicated process," a statement issued by the SLU read. "The lecturers need a solution now, and not in a few years, when some of the lecturers wouldn't receive it because they would already be retired." However, an official close to the negotiations said late Saturday that no more discussions between the Treasury and the lecturers are slated to take place until the 2008 budget is approved. According to the official, the delay is a result of "the busy schedule of the Treasury representatives." Bar-On expressed regret for the breakdown in talks, and said that a golden opportunity was missed. Meanwhile, National Union of Israeli Students head Itay Shonshine told The Jerusalem Post Thursday that he was spearheading efforts on two fronts to end the lecturers strike. "We sent a letter out today to all professional and industrial unions urging them to get involved and to call on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to take part in the negotiations," he said. Shonshine said he would also turn to the courts. The National Union of Israeli Students is preparing to go to court to demand a tuition refund for this semester, which has already seen 10 of its 13 weeks lost, he said. "Irreparable damage has already been done, and it is just going to get worse. There are many who won't be able to take up positions with firms if they cannot graduate - lawyers, architects, doctors, and engineers," he said. Ehud Zion Waldoks contributed to this report