Teachers to petition court over ruling

Court forces teachers to end strike, says they will be paid if they decide to work during Hanukka.

Tamir 224.88 (photo credit: Ehud Zion Waldoks)
Tamir 224.88
(photo credit: Ehud Zion Waldoks)
The Secondary School Teachers Organization (SSTO) will petition the High Court of Justice to stall an injunction issued by the National Labor Court, which would force them back to work after Hanukka, the SSTO announced Wednsday. The Labor Court also encouraged both sides to continue negotiating throughout the next week, and granted the teachers the right to return to school during the holiday and receive payment for their work, should they choose to do so. Education Minister Yuli Tamir expressed satisfaction with the decision, and immediately called on SSTO representatives to utilize the time given to them by returning to the negotiating table. Yet reconciliation remained unlikely as SSTO head Ran Erez continued his defiant stance by harshly criticizing the decision. "This is a black day for education, and a black day for the National Labor Court," Erez said. "I don't understand how Yuli Tamir, who is an intelligent woman, can allow teachers to return to work with their hands bound." "The government is trying to break the strike by force," Erez continued, adding that teachers would continue their struggle within the legal framework, and that back-to-work orders would not solve the problems with the educational system. Earlier, the SSTO appealed to the court not to issue back-to-work orders, and claimed that the state was "confusing the court" and "acting in bad faith." The statement came in a response from the SSTO demanded by the court after the government said the teachers union was refusing to negotiate. According to a copy of the union's response obtained by The Jerusalem Post, the union called on the court not to issue back-to-work orders because it was the state that was refusing to negotiate. Furthermore, the SSTO response claimed, the court's willingness to issue such work orders was preventing the state from negotiating in good faith, and giving it an incentive to withdraw previous promises. The SSTO said the current strike was "unique" for two reasons. "It's not merely a struggle over wage increases," read the response, but "an organizational struggle" for reform of "the status of the teaching profession, crowded learning conditions, and the return of many teaching hours cut from the secondary education budget." Secondly, the strike is unique "because despite its length, the entire public, including those directly harmed by the extended strike, stands strongly behind the teachers and does not wish the honorable court to end the strike through orders and coercion." Meanwhile, strike activities are still expected to continue this week as teachers, parents organizations and student unions join several other activist organizations, including a group of IDF reservists and activists for the handicapped, in a "social awareness rally" in Sderot on Wednesday. The rally will start at 3:30 p.m. at the municipality, and organizers from at least eight participating organizations hope to attract hundreds to the event. Teachers also plan a demonstration of marchers carrying torches through Jerusalem on Wednesday beginning at 5 p.m. at Zion Square, then climbing the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall and heading for the Prime Minister's residence near Paris Square.