School Opening in Doubt as Teacher Salary Talks Unresolved
On Tuesday, Yifat Shasha-Biton, the Education Minister, said that the labor negotiations between the Finance Ministry and the Teachers Union were not happening fast enough.
With the school year scheduled to begin in two weeks, this put it at risk, as teachers have threatened to go on strike.
Speaking to the Education, Culture and Sports Committee of the Knesset, the Education Minister asserted that the negotiations had been moving at a very slow pace.
This was days after the head of the Teachers Union threatened to go on strike to prevent the opening of schools on September 1st, as planned.
According to Shasha-Biton, the Finance Ministry had made unsatisfactory offers when it comes to teachers’ salaries.
She also accused officials of the treasury of dragging the matter until the last moment before the school year begins.
She said that offering a veteran teachers NIS 300, along with their existing gross salary, was nothing short of a mockery and the treasury officials would not be able to convince her otherwise.
The Finance Ministry
Shmuel Applebaum, a representative of the Finance Ministry, denied the accusations of foot-dragging, but agreed with the Education Minister’s bleak outlook.
He said that they wanted to reach an agreement as quickly as possible, but were not very optimistic about it. He also said that they had not been able to advance significantly, as they had wanted.
The representative added that the Finance Ministry did not want to back down from ‘important principles’, even though they were aware that a strike would cause a lot of damage.
Even though the start of the academic year remains uncertain, the Knesset committee gave schools the greenlight to start charging fees to parents.
This includes NIS 253, which is charged for kindergarten children, and NIS 1,372, which is charged for 12th graders.
The Israel Teachers Union had organized a number of strikes because of their wage dispute with the Finance Ministry at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
Yaffa Ben David, the head of the union, warned on Thursday that the teachers would go on strike once more, which means schools will not be able to open on time.
It appears that negotiations between the union and the Finance Ministry are stuck because of the demand of the former that salaries be paid in accordance with seniority and rank.
A union official went as far as accusing the Treasury of trying to raise salaries of some teachers by cutting down those of senior ones.
The demands put forth by the union is that a starting salary of NIS 10,500 be paid to new teachers and more senior teachers should be given substantial pay raises.
Avigdor Liberman, the Finance Minister, has conceded that new teachers should be paid higher salaries, but he wants to increase the number of working days for teachers.
Liberman also wants to grant principals the authority of giving pay raises to teachers in order to give incentive to teachers to excel in their profession.