Education Minister Calls for Emergency Meeting as Dire Predictions Hang Over School Year Opening

By Hamodia Staff

A classroom in Tel Aviv might stay empty on September 1, if a threatened teachers strike is not settled. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM — The head of the Israel Teachers Union said on Thursday that “the way things are now, the school year will not start.”

Union chief Yafa Ben David predicted that if the negotiations to avert a strike over teachers’ wages and seniority continue to falter, “there will be chaos” when the opening day arrives on September 1.

She accused Finance Ministry officials of “dragging their feet” and being “a bunch of men who think they get to decide what will be. They are divisive and causing conflict.”

Later Thursday, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton called on Prime Minister Yair Lapid to hold an emergency meeting on the education crisis.

“Despite my efforts in recent months, I have repeatedly found that Finance Ministry officials are uninterested in reaching a real solution,” she said, according to The Times of Israel. “Again and again, I see that the Finance Ministry is entirely indifferent to the danger that the school year will not open.”

Treasury officials and teacher representatives met again earlier in the day but failed to reach an agreement.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman has proposed what he termed a “generous offer” to settle the dispute, but Ben David said a Treasury offer the day before to add NIS 400 ($123) to senior teachers’ monthly salaries was an attempt to deceive teachers and deny them what they are entitled to.

Negotiations for a new agreement are said to be stuck over a union demand that a system determining salary hikes based on rank and seniority remain in place. Some charge that the current seniority-based payment system discourages many promising young teachers from continuing in the profession, since it means their remuneration doesn’t depend on the quality of their teaching and on the effort they invest in it, The Jerusalem Post explained.

Shasha-Biton was sharply critical of Liberman in particular, saying that his presentation of the Treasury offer at a press conference even as negotiations were still ongoing, was out of place.

“I was shocked when the Treasury, just after the meeting with the prime minister, came out and said it was a final proposal,” Shasha-Biton said. “Anyone saying it was a final proposal had not come [to talks] in good faith.”

Shasha-Biton said Wednesday after a meeting with Lapid and Liberman that if no deal is reached by Sunday she intends to demand an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the matter.

The state meanwhile is taking the strike threat seriously, and according to Channel 12 the Finance Ministry has already asked the state prosecution to prepare a court order prohibiting strike action.

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