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Lecturers reject Treasury proposal to finish strikes

The teachers’ union on Monday rejected a Finance Ministry proposal to end teachers’ strikes that have been on and off for months, saying the Treasury is manipulating the figures.

The proposal marked the end of a month-long freeze in negotiations after the union rejected an offer made by the ministry in June.

But the union said Monday that the newly submitted proposal was “even worse than the current situation,” adding that it would continue to fight for new teachers to be paid NIS 10,000.

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According to a statement released by the Ministry of Finance, the offer calls for a salary for new teachers of 9,000 shekels in the first year, a 30% increase from what they currently receive.

In addition, teachers will be entitled to a bonus of NIS 18,000 after three years.

Principals would benefit from greater flexibility and could create new positions according to the specific needs of their school. Teachers selected to fill these new positions will receive a bonus of 600 shekels.

Under the proposed reform, the starting salary of school principals will increase to 18,000 NIS, and they will receive an additional 2,000 NIS per month if they work in positions other than teaching.

In exchange, teachers would see their work hours increase to increase the minimum number of work hours for a teacher, for a full-time position, from 50% to 70%.

There will also be a five-day cut in holidays for students and teachers in a bid to ease the burden on working parents.

“Unfortunately, once again the meeting has ended before it has even started,” said a statement from the teachers’ union.

Yaffa Ben-David, secretary general of the Teachers Union, at a protest by Israeli teachers demanding better wages and working conditions, in Tel Aviv on May 30, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

“Treasury officials continue to make offers that drastically disadvantage teachers while trying to manipulate the numbers. By such behavior, they continue to exacerbate the crisis within the Israeli education system and call into question the timely return to school,” the teachers’ union added.

Moreover, according to the union, the gaps between the parties remain large and it has asked Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman to intervene.

After negotiations broke down last month, the department said it would ask the union to suggest improvements before any pay deal.

“If we offer higher wages without accompanying changes that benefit the system, it could set a precedent for other industries with which the department signs wage agreements,” a Treasury official said at the time.

The finance ministry had also accused the head of the teachers’ union, Yaffa Ben-David, of not being ready to compromise enough.

Teachers fought for higher wages and better working conditions. Repeated attacks have wreaked havoc on Israel’s education system, with parents pressuring both sides to reach an agreement.

In addition, the Ministry of Education warned on Sunday that some 5,600 teaching places had not yet been filled before the start of the school year, scheduled for September 1.

The shortage is most acute in Tel Aviv and central Israel, where schools are short about 3,500 teachers, according to data released by the ministry. Other regions are facing staff shortages in the hundreds.

Primary schools lack 424 English teachers and 250 science teachers, while special schools and kindergartens face a shortage of 1,103, the ministry added. There are also about 460 unfilled science teaching positions.

Data published by the daily Ha’aretz showed that more teachers left the sector after last year than in previous years. The number of students pursuing teaching studies has also decreased, from 13,500 in the 2020-2021 academic year to 11,400 the following year.

Data released in March by the Central Bureau of Statistics showed a 12% drop in new teachers over the past school year.

On Sunday, subsidized childcare centers in Israel threatened not to reopen their doors next school year, accusing the state of “neglecting preschool education for years.”

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