Teachers unions call for negotiations

Demand to reach a collective salary agreement before elections.

livnat resign sign 298.8 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
livnat resign sign 298.8
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The heads of the Teachers Union and the Secondary School Teachers Association Sunday called for immediate salary and reform negotiations with the government. "We want to begin negotiations for a new collective salary agreement before the elections," said Teachers Union head Yossi Wasserman at a joint press conference in Tel Aviv. Wasserman added that the unions would take any necessary steps, including a strike in the entire school system, to reach an agreement before March 10. "Status and salary are inseparable in Western society," Wasserman added. "You cannot have a high status while earning less than minimum wage." "So far," added Secondary School Teachers Association head Ran Erez, "every election campaign is accompanied by promises concerning the education system, yet after the elections the education system is always the first to suffer from additional cuts." "We have today a prime minister and finance minister who both plan to stay [in office] after the elections," Erez added. "There is no reason for them not to sign an agreement for a reform in the education system now. If they don't sign it today, they won't sign it after the elections either." The union leaders' call comes against the background of upcoming internal elections in both unions in the coming months. Both Erez and Wasserman denied any connection between these elections and their campaign for educational reform. Close to a year after Education Minister Limor Livnat announced the inauguration of the Dovrat Reform, which was initiated in 35 municipalities this year, the teachers unions declared it to be a passing episode in the history of Israeli education, yet repeated much of the same rhetoric used by the ministry concerning the importance of education and the need to battle rising school violence, the deterioration in the status of teachers, and overcrowded classes. Calling Livnat's term as education minister a period of "ad-hoc solutions and media spins," the union heads warned that the size and complexity of the education system required careful planning to initiate real change. According to Wasserman, the reform envisioned by the unions will involve an insistence on maintaining the six-day school week - in contrast to the Dovrat Reform, which advocated shortening the school week to five days and lengthening the school day instead. "What the Education Ministry is doing today in 35 municipalities is an experiment whose subjects are Israeli schoolchildren, and we will not allow them to be subjected to capricious decisions to draw media attention," Wasserman added. Although they warned that the education system was "approaching an iceberg, with no one to steer it away from a collision," Wasserman and Erez declined to name their preferred candidate for education minister following the elections. "Ronit Tirosh, the ministry's director-general, left because she saw the collision coming," said Erez. "But if the prime minister had consulted with us, he would not have invited Tirosh to join his party."