JERUSALEM (Sep. 11)
Some 60,000 teachers went on strike this morning shutting down classes for more than one million high school and elementary grades pupils all over Israel who had begun their new school year only a week ago. The strike followed the breakdown of last ditch negotiations between the teachers union and government representatives that began at midnight and lasted until 4 a.m.
The issue is wages. The government is standing fast on its policy of granting no pay raises to public employes in excess of 15 percent. That policy was reaffirmed by the Cabinet at a special session last night. The teachers found it inadequate. Various compromises proposed by both sides and by Histadrut during the pre-dawn negotiating session were rejected.
Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich contended that the teachers” demands would “create total calamity in the economy and bring endless price inflation.” According to government officials, if the teachers breach the 15 percent wage ceiling, other civil servants would demand similar increases. Ehrlich charged that “the teachers have acted bitterly and irrationally.” But Histadrut Secretary General Yeruham Meshel claimed that the government mishandled the entire matter by an “ill-timed series of acts.”
The teachers strike has affected virtually every school in the country, including some specialized schools that normally would continue to function. These are schools for the blind, the retarded, disabled or autistic children and schools in the border settlements that the teachers union exempts from a strike. But teachers at those institutions have asked the union for permission to participate.
PLANS FOR ONE MILLION YOUNGSTERS
The immediate problem is how to occupy over one million youngsters while the strike continues, especially how to keep them off the streets. The Education Ministry set up an emergency headquarters in Jerusalem to receive suggestions.
Under the headquarters’ coordination, museums have opened their doors to children and teenagers free of charge. Israel television has expanded its educational broadcasting time and movie houses have reduced their admissions price for children. Special theatrical performances have been scheduled in development towns. Libraries have extended their hours and, for those who are interested, rabbis are offering Bible lessons in all synagogues. Summer camps have reopened.
The police have taken special measures to protect pupils who are circulating in the streets. They are trying to concentrate them in parks and playgrounds. Many working parents of young children took them to their jobs this morning. Older pupils are being encouraged to join the civil guard or to write Rosh Hashanah greetings to Jewish prisoners in the Soviet Union. The teachers themselves are looking for temporary jobs to carry them through the strike.