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Teachers’ Strike Looming in Israel

The government and Histadrut are squaring off for a teachers’ strike called for next Monday that will affect some one million elementary and secondary school pupils who began the new school year only last Friday. Both the trade unionists and government officials acknowledge that the outcome will set the stage for future wage agreements for other government-employes and will test the government’s determination to maintain a 15 percent ceiling on wage hikes for all civil servants.

The strike appeared inevitable after the teachers’ union rejected Education Minister Zevulun Hammer’s final offer Sunday. That being the case, the government is believed to want a showdown at this time. According to some economists, the Treasury views a teachers’ strike as an opportunity to prove that it will not give in to wage demands it considers excessive.

From the government’s point of view, a strike at this time would have minimum impact on the education process inasmuch as classes will be interrupted by frequent holidays in the coming weeks. The weather is still mild and students will not be confined to their homes. Furthermore, officials believe the government will win in the end because the teachers’ union has a limited strike fund that will enable it to pay the salaries of striking teachers for only a few weeks.

Economic analysts also pointed out that a teachers’ strike would give the government a breathing spell from labor disputes because other unions will wait for its outcome before considering strikes of their own. Government officials said they were prepared to promise the teachers a five percent increase beginning with the next fiscal year. That would comply with the government’s policy of linking increases to productivity. Productivity is expected to rise by five percent next year.

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