University students announce strike

Opening of 2nd semester to be cancelled in protest of Shochat Committee.

little red schoolhouse 8 (photo credit: )
little red schoolhouse 8
(photo credit: )
University students groups, with support from the lecturer's union, announced Thursday that the school year's second semester, set to begin this Sunday, would be cancelled. The reason for the strike, according to the students, was the establishment of the Shochat Committee, meant to examine the future of Israeli higher education. Lecturers and student groups are not represented among the committee members, and these groups have said the committee was set up to rubber-stamp a Finance Ministry plan to 'privatize' higher education. In related news, high schools were also closed Thursday after the Secondary School Teachers Organization called a one-day "warning strike" to protest what they termed "drawn out" negotiations over wage agreements with the Finance and Education ministries. The strike will affect all high schools in the country. Teachers unions have been threatening for months to completely shut down the educational system if the Finance Ministry remains steadfast in its refusal to negotiate a collective salary agreement for teachers. The last wage agreement expired in 2005. Following the urging of Education Minister Yuli Tamir and others in late December, the Finance Ministry and the unions began a negotiation process. Thursday's strike follows similar day-long or half-day "warning strikes" in December and January. Among the teachers' demands are the negotiation of a more favorable wage scheme and increasing the number of annual early retirement packages for educators. While the unions are frustrated at the pace of negotiations, the Finance Ministry said on Wednesday that "the sides are engaged in intensive and topical negotiations over the past few weeks." While admitting that "negotiations have had peaks and valleys," the ministry warned that "the decision of the teachers' organization [to strike] could lead to a missed opportunity for improving the status of teachers specifically and of the educational system generally." Though the SSTO will strike tomorrow, the broader Teachers Union has decided to await the results of further negotiations with the Finance Ministry over the next two weeks before deciding if they will join the strike.