Classrooms to reopen Friday as teachers pause strike after two days

After striking for two full days, teachers will return to the classroom Friday after their union announced it was pausing sanctions Thursday, despite not yet reaching a deal on wages and reforms with government officials.

The Israel Teachers Union said the strike was being frozen at the request of Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton. It also cited a “matter-of-fact” meeting Thursday between the union’s chief, Yaffa Ben David, and Finance Ministry official Kobi Bar-Nathan, director of salary and employment agreements at the Treasury.

The two are due to meet again Sunday.

In a statement, Ben David said she “hopes to continue relevant and honest negotiations,” while warning the union could resume the strike if the labor talks do not soon yield an agreement.

“If we don’t reach understandings in the coming days, we’ll be forced to renew the fight,” she said.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman welcomed the move.

“Students, teachers and parents deserve a successful end of the school year, without strikes or sanctions,” he tweeted.

Yaffa Ben David, left, speaks at a conference in Jerusalem on February 11, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90); Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem on June 12, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shasha-Biton also hailed the pause of the strike, while vowing to push for the “rapid advancement” of the negotiations.

The announcement from the Israel Teachers Union came after a second straight full-day strike at kindergartens, elementary schools and middle schools around the country. That was after a week of regional two-hour strikes that forced schools in different parts of the country to open late.

Several municipalities held studies Thursday despite the strike.

Special education institutions have continued to open and the strike has not affected students in 7th grade and up, who ended the school year on Monday.

Elementary schools, middle schools and kindergartens are set to end the academic year next week.

The teachers union has been attempting to pile pressure on the Finance Ministry in a dispute over wages and working conditions, but came under widespread criticism from harried and overstretched parents as the strike sent them scrambling for childcare options.

The labor dispute is centered on planned Finance Ministry reforms to reduce the power of the Teachers Union, including allowing principals to fire staff without union intervention, and shrinking the pay gap between veteran and new teachers.

The Finance Ministry has said it is willing to raise teachers’ wages but only as part of a package of reforms to improve the overall education system, proposals which the teachers’ union has so far refused to accept.

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