Schools to stay shuttered nationwide Wednesday as teachers’ strike intensifies

Kindergarten and elementary schools across Israel will not open Wednesday as the Israel Teachers Union declared a day-long strike as part of an ongoing dispute with the Finance Ministry over salaries and working conditions.

“We will continue with the sanctions until the Finance Ministry puts a concrete offer on the table,” union chief Yaffa Ben David said in a letter to teachers on Tuesday. “We will continue to fight for our rights and for raising the salaries of all of you.”

Special education institutions will open as usual on Wednesday. The strike will also not affect students in grades 6 and up, who ended the school year on Monday.

The union has recently been holding two-hour strikes at the start of the school day, including on Tuesday, causing classes to begin later than usual, though the sanctions were only in certain geographical regions and not nationwide.

At the heart of the current dispute lie 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 union is demanding that new teachers earn a monthly salary of NIS 10,000 ($2,981), as well as a meaningful increase in experienced teachers’ salaries.

Ben David called on Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman to meet Wednesday for talks instead of Sunday as the Treasury chief has proposed.

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

Shortly before Tuesday’s announcement, Liberman met with leaders of the National Parents’ Council. He reiterated his support for adjusting the number of vacation days in schools to make it similar to the number of vacation days offered to workers in other fields, in a bid to ease the pressure on working parents.

“Without matching the vacation schedules and compensating excellence, there is no point in any agreement,” Liberman said, according to the Ynet news site.

The parents’ council said it supported higher pay for teachers, but slammed the union for “calling wildcat strikes at the height of talks which were set to advance.” It urged the Finance Ministry to petition for a court injunction against the strike.

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