Union Head: ‘Teachers Will Not Work One Extra Day’

YERUSHALAYIM -
A closed school in Tzfas, as part of preventive measures amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus. (David Cohen/Flash90)

Yaffa Ben-David, the head of the Israeli Teachers Union, reiterated Monday that teachers will “not work one more day” beyond nine days that they committed to working during the summer vacation, in the wake of the closure of schools due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. Speaking to Yediot Acharonot, Ben-David said, as she had told Channel 12 Sunday night, that efforts to squeeze more concessions out of teachers “is an act of cynicism by the Finance Ministry, whose officials are working at home with a full-time salary.”

Students in Israel have not been to class since the week after Purim, and plans to return them to class are currently unclear. The ministry has proposed cutting the salaries of teachers – instead of laying them off – with the money to be restored when they continue to work in the summer. Education Minister Rafi Peretz told Yediot Acharonot that he believed classes, when they resume, should continue through the end of July. “We believe that would be the proper thing to do, and we plan to discuss that with teachers,” he said.

But if he does, he will find an interlocutor adamantly opposed to both salary cuts and extra work days. “We will not work one more day than what we promised, because we are already working very hard – and the Finance Ministry wants to cut our pay for that work. After over a month of vacation, classes resumed – online – for thousands of students Sunday, and that counts as far as Ben-David is concerned.

“Schools are closed around the world, and our teachers are working harder than teachers anywhere else,” she said. “Teachers are not working at 100% of capacity, they are working at 150%. Government workers, high-tech workers are all working from home, and nobody talks about cutting their salaries. But for those who barely make NIS 6,000 a month they want to cut salaries.”

Education Ministry policy is that resources will be made available for students to participate in online classes, but participating in such classes is not required – and as a result, teachers will “owe” the education system work days. But Ben-David said that that policy, as espoused by Peretz, is incorrect. “As far as we are concerned these are regular school days. That is our understanding with the director-general of the Education Ministry, with whom we are working.”

The online classes have elicited a great deal of negative response from parents, many of whom say that supervising children while they are trying to work themselves is very difficult – to say nothing of the many families who do not have computers for their children to work on, or internet connections. For the latter, the ministry has instituted a phone system, where students can call in to lessons and listen to teacher lectures, but managing that has proven difficult as well, the report said.