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Teachers’ Strike Draws Closer 7000 Classrooms to Be Affected

Overcrowded classrooms appeared to be the main issue today in a teachers’ strike threatened for Friday, the first day of the new school term. Shalom Levin, secretary of the Teachers Union, said the strike would be limited initially to grades one, seven and nine in eight population centers. These are the lowest grades in each of the three divisions of Israel’s elementary and secondary school system.

Levin defended the threatened strike as an exercise of the teachers’ basic right to improve their working conditions. The union demands that the maximum number of pupils in elementary and secondary school classes be reduced from 40 to 35 and in kindergartens from 35 to 30. The union also wants the Education Ministry to train new teachers and build new classrooms. Levin said the Ministry’s plan to case classroom overcrowding over a 12-year period was unacceptable.

He agreed, however, to submit to the union’s executive committee a proposal by Deputy Premier and Education Minister Yigal Allon to establish a fact-finding committee on the problem. Allon proposed that the committee consist of representatives of the government, local authorities and the teachers union.

Levin, on his part, had suggested an arbitration committee with both sides pledged in advance to abide by its decision. Allon’s proposal does not require such a prior agreement. The strike, if it takes place, would affect roughly 700 classrooms out of a total of 16,000.

Meanwhile, negotiations were expected to resume today in the six-week old strike against the Elite Candy Corp. They are expected to concentrate on the union’s demand for higher wages and equal pay for women.

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