Liberman Denounces Teachers’ “Bullying” Tactics

By Yisrael Price

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaking at a press conference on the negotiations to avoid a strike by the teachers union, Wednesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM — Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman denounced the Israeli teachers union for engaging in unfair tactics to achieve its salary demands, putting the start of the new school year into further doubt amid strike threats.

“I’m hearing that some are sure that a government won’t be able to allow a strike two months before elections, and there is an attempt to take the students and parents hostage,” Liberman said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Violent and bullying behavior will not pay off.”

The head of the Teachers Union has threatened to call a strike to block the planned opening of schools nationwide on September 1. General elections are set for November 1.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, who has taken the side of the teachers against the ministry, said: “We are two weeks before the start of the school year and the parents are still in uncertainty, along with the children. This negotiation could have ended a long time ago. The state has money and there are [possible] agreements. There are officials in the ministry who aren’t interested in the children, nor the teachers, nor the parents.”

Striking a note of optimism, Liberman said teachers’ representatives would be meeting later in the day with interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid, and that “by Sunday we can close all the details on the basis of our generous offer.”

The Teachers Union responded that “the vague proposal presented today to the public by the treasury is not familiar to us and wasn’t presented to us during the negotiation meetings held all week.”

Calling the proposal “embarrassing,” the union charged that it “harms education workers even more,” without elaborating.

According to the proposal, new teachers would earn a monthly NIS 9,000 ($2,760) from the start, and receive an extra NIS 1,100 ($340) if they’re homeroom teachers, an extra NIS 1,500 ($460) if they’re kindergarten managers, and a one-time stipend of NIS 24,000 ($7,360) after working for three consecutive years.

The starting salary for school principals will be a monthly NIS 20,000 ($6,140), with extra for principals who are also homeroom teachers.

This represents a salary hike of up to NIS 2,100 ($650) per month for teachers and up to NIS 5,400 ($1,650) for principals, as well as other perks.

Veteran teachers will get a raise of NIS 800 ($245) per month, according to Liberman’s proposal.

The union is demanding that new teachers receive a starting salary of NIS 10,500 ($3,218) a month, and bigger pay raises for more senior teachers.

The Finance Ministry official in charge of salaries, Kobi Bar-Nathan, warned that any such deal with the teachers will create a domino effect, leading to similar wage demands from in unionized sectors.

“This is the first time since the creation of the state that the education budget is bigger than any other budget, including the defense budget,” he claimed.

Subsequently on Wednesday, after meeting with Lapid and Liberman, Shasha-Biton said that the three had agreed to a series of in-depth discussions between education and finance ministry officials in a renewed effort to resolve the crisis.

Noting that educational personnel are suffering from “tension and uncertainty, and that we must reach a solution by next week,” Ynet quoted her as saying.

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