Court rejects government’s attempt to block impending teachers’ strike

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The National Labor Court on Tuesday evening dismissed a government attempt to forestall an impending teachers’ strike with a request for back-to-work orders.

The court said its decision was due to a technicality — the state had submitted its petition in response to another petition submitted by the Manufacturers Association — and that the state could submit a separate petition if it wished. , leaving the door open for a possible injunction with less than 36 hours remaining before the start of the school year.

The state attorney’s office had sought a court injunction to try to stop teachers from striking on Thursday, the first day of school, as pay negotiations with the teachers’ union appeared to be at an impasse.

The petition, led by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, underscored tensions over the issue within the cabinet, while Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton distanced herself from the move, saying “the Legal threats will not help solve the education crisis.”

The demand cited the “massive damage” that an extension of the striking teachers’ summer holidays would cause to both parents and children, and accused the teachers’ union of “breaking every possible framework” to make progress.

Despite reports of positive developments on Tuesday morning, sources later said a deal was still a long way off. With the decision to block a strike apparently flagged, Treasury officials no longer believe gaps can be closed in time.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid meets with Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman on August 17, 2022. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)

One issue the two sides still disagreed on was vacation days. The Department of Finance is seeking to bring the number of vacation days teachers receive closer to the number enjoyed by workers in other sectors of the economy, to reduce pressure on working parents. The ministry is therefore asking education staff to give up six days of vacation in exchange for a few Fridays off, according to the Kan public broadcaster.

Tuesday’s report said the union is prepared to forego the days immediately following Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot – known as Isru Chag — as well as Lag Baomer, in exchange for time off between Yom Kippur and Sukkot.

The Treasury said the position of the teachers’ union was “unacceptable” and that the teachers were demanding an “agreement that goes beyond any criteria set by previous agreements”.

“We have reached the limit of what we can offer teachers,” a Treasury source was quoted by Channel 12 news as saying.

The teachers’ union demanded the petition be dismissed, saying “the timing of the request at a time when teams are reporting progress in negotiations raises suspicions of an attempt to undermine agreements or force the positions of the Ministry of Finance on the teachers’ union”.

The union, along with the Department for Education, has also warned that Treasury wage proposals 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.

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