Teachers Union Puts Off Strike While Talks Continue

A kindergarten in Kfar Yona awaits the first day of school, scheduled for Tuesday. (Chen Leopold/Flash90)

The Israel Teachers Union pulled back on a strike threat on the first day of school, postponing it until Thursday if no agreement is reached with the Education Ministry, according to The Times of Israel.

The union told the Labor Court that it will engage in “intensive talks” with government officials to try to head off disruption of the school year. The government took the union to court to prevent the strike.

At issue is the safety of teachers considered to be at high risk for the coronavirus, particularly primary school teachers and 1,500 kindergarten staff members.

The union is also demanding full sick pay for those unable to work due to the pandemic, whereas the Finance Ministry has proposed furloughing them or allowing them to retire.

The union countered that instead, they should be reassigned to remotely teach high-risk children who cannot attend school, or they should be granted medical leave enabling them to use their sick days to stay home. That idea was rejected by the Education Ministry, according to media reports.

The state offered in return that at-risk teachers be permitted to take unpaid leave for the first two months of the school year, and then those who are found to be able to work would be permitted to return. Union representatives were not satisfied.

Meanwhile, coronavirus project manager Ronni Gamzu continued to oppose the opening of schools in areas with high morbidity rates.

“I don’t believe schools will open tomorrow in ‘red’ cities, I don’t think the Education Ministry would do that. I didn’t compromise on schooling in ‘red’ cities, and I don’t think I need to compromise.”

Ministers in the coronavirus cabinet rebuffed Gamzu on the matter Sunday, specifically authorizing schools to open under Health and Education Ministry guidelines.

Gamzu said talks with the ministry are ongoing to “solve this shameful problem.”