Teachers Union Head Not Discouraged over Backlash for Strike

On Thursday, an injunction was issued for blocking the planned strike of teachers in protest against the new rules that eliminate the need for quarantine for children exposed to COVID-19. Now, waiting for a final decision from the court, the leader of the Israel Teachers Union said that they wouldn’t let this deter them. Yaffa Ben-David, the head of the union, said that they were waiting for the decision from the Labor Court. She added that all the shaming and conduct on social media did not have any impact and she said they would continue to represent the teaching staff.

There had also been reports that the Health Ministry’s head of public health services, Sharon Alroy-Preis had pressurized Ben-David to call for the strike, but the latter denied the rumors. On Wednesday, health experts in Israel had recommended that isolation for kids not be put to an end, but the government decided to move ahead with the measure. Ben-David said that Alroy-Preis had not talked to her about the strike and she had made the call herself because she wanted to know the health situation. Ben-David also highlighted that they were not ending quarantine for adults, which showed that they hadn’t based their decision on science. 

She went on to say that this meant teachers were left exposed. The wildcat strike had been blocked by the Tel Aviv Labor Court early on Thursday morning. Dalit Stauber, the Director-General of the Education Ministry had called the strike ‘illegitimate’ and state prosecutors had used the term ‘political and violent’ for the strike. Ben-David’s announcement of the strike on Wednesday had plunged thousands of parents into uncertainty about school on Thursday and the decision from the court had come in just before dawn. Parts of the West Bank, northern Israel and Jerusalem were the exceptions, as the school had already been called off in these areas due to snow. 

The injunction against the teacher’s strike was extended by the court on Friday, which barred the union members from protesting at least until Monday. Yifat Shasha-Biton, the Education Minister, also hit back and said that Ben-David was shattering the fragile routine of parents and children, harming them as a result. The Education Minister said that the union head had known about the plan and had agreed to it. She added that the conduct of the union head wasn’t a reflection of the teachers on the ground.

The Health Ministry also made an update to its guidance regarding the isolation of schoolchildren on Thursday. Unvaccinated kids will need to stay at home for five days if a family member tests positive for the coronavirus and will need a negative antigen test result to be released. The old system required only exposed unvaccinated children refusing regular testing to quarantine at home. The ministry also disclosed that those who had recovered from the virus would not have to take weekly tests twice a week for 60 days, along with children who are in special education. Nonetheless, only 50% of the kids turned up for school on Thursday. 

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