Universities drop request for back-to-work order

Council of University Presidents announces universities will close down Sunday if agreement not reached by Friday.

strike 224.88 (photo credit: Student Union/ Ben Gurion Unversity)
strike 224.88
(photo credit: Student Union/ Ben Gurion Unversity)
The university presidents on Wednesday withdrew their request for the National Labor Court to order professors back to work and began preparations to completely close down their institutions on Sunday. After a tumultuous day of talks, the presidents abandoned the negotiations, the Treasury stopped negotiating with the senior lecturers, and the lecturers began to court additional intervention by Histadrut Labor Federation head Ofer Eini. Late Tuesday night, the Committee of University Presidents put what they said was their final proposal on the table and told the lecturers they were willing to negotiate alongside them to get the Finance Ministry to agree to the proposal. They also said that if no agreement was reached by noon Friday, they would shut down the universities on Sunday. The lecturers rejected the proposal and instead asked Education Minister Yuli Tamir to approach the Histadrut head because "Eini's proposal could serve as the basis for an agreement." Eini proposed a compromise solution to Tamir a week ago. After their final offer was rejected, the university heads withdrew their request for back-to-work orders and focused on the logistics of shutting down their schools. "Since we are going to shut down the universities on Sunday, the court orders were superfluous," a spokesman said. "We offered a good agreement, something in the middle, but both sides [the lecturers and the Treasury] threw us out of the room," and so we are finished being mediators, he said. The two proposals, Eini's and the universities', diverge on only one point. However, that difference could be worth as much as 12 percent in raises. The university presidents have proposed a 21% raise, of which 16% is meant as compensation for salary erosion from 1997 to 2009, and 5% to implement the recommendations of the Shochat Committee on higher education. Under the proposal, the lecturers would also get all of the raises that the public sector gets from 2010-2014 (the last year of the agreement), with an addition 1.5% a year from 2010 and another 5% toward the end of the agreement. Each percentage point is worth NIS 27m. according to the Treasury, the university presidents' spokesman said. Eini's proposal differs for the years 2007-09. He has proposed 21% for salary erosion from 1997 to 2006, and that the lecturers start getting the same raises as the rest of the public sector from 2007. Otherwise, the proposals are identical. Neither has been accepted by the Treasury, which did not return calls for comment by press time.