Teachers Continue Strike, Doctors Threaten to Start One

YERUSHALAYIM -

As teachers continued their sporadic strike Monday, this time keeping 40,000 students of the ORT high school system at home, doctors threatened to carry out their own strike on Wednesday. Two weeks ago, Dr. Leonid Eidelman, head of the Israel Medical Association, the country’s largest union for doctors, declared a work dispute, and according to Israeli labor law, a strike can commence two weeks after that declaration if the issues in question have not been resolved.

And they have not, as far as doctors are concerned, according to the union. At issue is a new campaign by the government to prevent competition between the country’s four kupot cholim (health maintenance organizations). The government recently proposed a change to the national health insurance law that would prevent a doctor from moving between the different kupot, as the HMOs try to attract popular doctors in the hope that their patients will follow them. The law proposes that a doctor who leaves one HMO cannot work at a competing one that is within 30 kilometers of the one s/he left. The union is demanding that the government drop this law, because, it claims, it will hurt doctors’ ability to improve their work conditions.

“As long as there is no progress in finding a solution for this problem, we will carry out a strike,” the union said. “All doctors in all hospitals and kupot cholim will participate.” Exceptions will be made in life-threatening situations, but anything other than life or death matters will be placed on hold for at least one day, the union said.

Meanwhile, teachers continued their partial strike, with a different school network affected every day. Monday it was the turn of ORT students to stay home. Teachers are demanding a new contract, to replace the one that expired at the end of 2016. Among the demands of teachers is an increase in the monthly salary of a beginning teacher from NIS 6,400 a month to NIS 8,000. Teachers are also demanding improvements in fringe benefits, better working conditions, and bonuses for excellence in teaching, among other things.

Speaking to Channel Ten, Ran Erez, chairman of the union, said that “the government has to stop burying its head in the sand and invest in the future of Israeli students.” Offers the government has made have been “embarrassing to teachers and harmful to students,” Erez said, with the government’s best offer so far raising teachers’ salary NIS 60 per month – far less than they are demanding.

In response, the Education Ministry said that the strike would not affect junior high schools, meaning that only students in grades ten and above would be affected. The Ministry said that it hoped to head off the Sunday strike by high school teachers as well. Union and Ministry officials are set to meet Sunday afternoon.