Liberman optimistic teacher union dispute can be resolved despite impending strike
Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday that ongoing negotiations between the Israel Teachers’ Union and the government appear to be nearing an agreement, according to a series of tweet Monday morning.
Talks to resolve a pay dispute between the ministry and the union have made little progress for months. Union leader Yaffa Ben David has repeatedly threatened to prevent schools from opening as planned on September 1 if a deal is not reached.
Despite the lingering threat, Liberman said he left Sunday’s round of negotiations with “the feeling that there is movement and a good desire for resolution on all sides”, adding that he anticipates a conclusion of the saga Monday or Tuesday.
Liberman also took the opportunity to hit back at reports that the protracted negotiations had simply been over teachers‘ salaries.
“Anyone who says the argument between the Ministry of Finance and the teachers’ union is over NIS 800 million is wrong and being misled,” he tweeted.
Liberman said that underlying the negotiations were “78% of the public who are dissatisfied with the education system, the emphasis on (teacher) excellence not seniority, the demand for synchronization of vacation days between the Israeli workforce and the education system, and the powers that should be given to constituents [to decide who gets a raise].”
Teachers’ union officials told the Ynet news site that it had always been possible to conclude the talks quickly.
“It could all be over in hours, if only Treasury officials would change their attitude and stop delaying progress. Right now they are trying to cause revolutions instead of making a pay deal,” the official said.
Negotiations reached a boiling point on Sunday after Liberman said he had filed an injunction with the state attorney’s office in an attempt to force teachers back to work on September 1.
Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton quickly hit back at Liberman’s threat, accusing him of undermining the months-long talks.
“Those seeking an injunction, as teams from all sides come together to broker deals that will lead to an orderly return to school, are proving they are uninterested in reaching a deal and uninvested in the future. education system and the future of children,” she said.
Talks for a new deal are reportedly stalled by a union demand that a system determining salary increases based on rank and seniority remain in place, rather than one that transfers some of those increases to new teachers and those who excel in their work. .
The Department of Finance is proposing that new teachers receive a 35% raise, while veteran teachers only receive a 3% raise.
Liberman’s plan also includes increasing the number of school days in an effort to help working parents. He also wants to provide more flexibility for headteachers by allowing them to offer raises to outstanding teachers to encourage excellence within the profession.
The Israel Teachers Union, which represents daycare, kindergarten and elementary school teachers, rejected all of the government’s proposals, accusing the ministry at one point of “manipulating the numbers” in its favor and worsen the crisis. With the Ministry of Education, he warned that the salary plan will lead to a mass exodus of teachers in five to six years.
The government has limited flexibility in what it can offer teachers. As a caretaker government, the attorney general has capped what the finance ministry can offer teachers to 4 billion shekels ($1.2 billion) ahead of the election.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.