State prosecutors slam ‘violent and political’ attempt to call teachers’ strike

State prosecutors said Thursday that an appeal by the Israel Teachers’ Union to its members not to go to work to protest new rules banning the quarantine of students exposed to COVID-19 was a “strike.” violent and political.

The Tel Aviv labor court finally blocked a wildcat strike called the previous night by union leader Yaffa Ben-David, which Education Ministry director general Dalit Stauber on Thursday called “illegitimate” .

“It is a violent strike, it is a political strike making illegal and illegitimate use of organizational power, aimed at changing the policy of bodies authorized by law,” prosecutors said in a letter to the court.

“In my opinion, this is a strong gesture that is not fair,” Stauber told radio station Radio103FM.

The Education Ministry and the Israel Teachers Union were due to discuss the new quarantine rules at a meeting on Thursday afternoon.

Stauber insisted that the new quarantine rules, which include requiring students to take home virus tests twice a week, will make schools “the safest place for every citizen in the country.”

Education Ministry Director General Dalit Stauber attends a press conference at the Knesset on January 5, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

She pointed to recent research on the impact of distance learning on students during shutdowns over the last two years of the pandemic, with an increase in depression, eating disorders and other issues. .

“Health and wellness isn’t just Omicron or the coronavirus… it’s also about kids’ mental health… Kids need to get up in the morning and maintain their routines,” she said.

Still, Ben-David remained defiant, telling the Kan public broadcaster on Thursday that her order to stay away was a “protest” and not a strike.

She said that by enforcing the new quarantine rules, the government has taken a ‘populist decision and is abandoning teaching staff’.

Yaffa Ben-David, head of the Israel Teachers’ Union in Jerusalem on March 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Edna David, deputy general secretary of the teachers’ union, told Channel 12 the walkout was in protest against “a very irresponsible plan decided upon by the government.”

“There is chaos in the education system. They play on the health of educators here,” she said.

David said Ben-David had taken “the most responsible decision to protect the health of the 160,000 teachers who attend schools and kindergartens”.

“I have never heard the Minister of Education talk about the health of teachers and kindergarten teachers,” she said.

The Israel Teachers’ Union said in a statement: “It is unfortunate that the government insists on betting on a dubious plan that endangers the lives of students and teaching staff. The government is insisting on a dangerous plan to cover up its failures in handling the outbreak in the education system.

National coronavirus czar Salman Zarka told Kan that while he supported the new quarantine rules, it would have been better to wait another week before applying them to let the wave of infections ebb as expected.

Ben-David on Wednesday night called on teachers not to report to work the next morning to protest new rules, which she wrote will jeopardize the health of faculty members by allowing exposed children carriers of coronavirus to continue to go to school.

Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton visits students at Ramon School in Modi’in on October 12, 2021. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Ben-David’s announcement left hundreds of thousands of parents uncertain whether there would be school on Thursday, with the courts’ decision to block it not coming until just before dawn. The exceptions were Jerusalem, northern Israel and parts of the West Bank, where school had already been canceled due to a snowy day.

Ben-David’s decision drew opposition, not only from the government and parents, but also from teachers.

Dorit Hazan, president of the Histadrut Labor Federations organization for kindergarten teachers and educators, told Channel 12 on Wednesday that Ben-David’s strike call was “irresponsible.”

“It makes it sound like she doesn’t really care about kindergarten teachers and pedagogical workers in general,” Hazan said.

Illustrative: Students at Ramon School in Modi’in, October 12, 2021 (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

Education Minister Shasha-Biton also lambasted Ben-David for what she called “strong political action at the expense of the children of Israel.”

Under the new rules, all vaccinated and unvaccinated students will be required to take two home antigen tests per week, on Sundays and Wednesdays, and report negative results to an Education Department portal.

Children who test positive for COVID-19 at home will be required to take an official antigen test at a public facility and self-isolate for five days if that also shows a positive result.

The announcement did not specify whether there would be a penalty for not being tested among vaccinated students, stating only that those who are unvaccinated and refuse to take the tests would be forced into quarantine when they come into contact with a confirmed carrier of the virus.

People in close contact are encouraged, but not required, to test themselves daily for five days.

There was also criticism on Thursday that the necessary test kits had not yet been delivered to all pupils as promised by the government, with the Department of Education saying there was a shortage of tests at the school. national scale.

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