Treasury targets teachers and doctors

The Finance Ministry plans to seek a freeze in the pay hikes awarded to public sector employees outside the framework agreement.

Sources inform ''Globes'' that the Ministry of Finance plans to seek a freeze in the pay hikes awarded to public sector employees outside the framework agreement, including senior and junior university faculty, defense research employees, teachers, and doctors. The ministry estimates that the measure will save NIS 4 billion a year.

The doctors are promising a bitter battle if the Ministry of Finance officially raises the idea, both because they agreed, as part of the labor contract reached in 2011, to institute time clocks for the first time, and because many doctors rebelled against the fact that the pay hike was spread out over nine years.

"We've also had indications about the Ministry of Finance's intentions, and if they are serious - and the threat infuriates me - we are ready to draw up an action plan, and we will not allow anyone to try to execute this," Israel Medical Association (IMA) chairman Dr. Leonid Eidelman told "Globes". "It's easy to set fire to the land, but it's very hard to put it out, as the example from 18 months demonstrates well. After we agreed to a long-term settlement because we did not want chaos in the health system every few years, the demand for a pay freeze will teach everyone to only sign short-term agreements. For the public system, this means more labor disputes, more harm to the public, and the strengthening of private medicine after all the struggle. This is why we intend to fight against any such intention."

Eidelman added that the agreement included real reform in the health system.

Adv. Tal Keret, who represented the specialists who rebelled against the agreement with the IMA, said today, "One of our main arguments against the agreement was the long time frame, and that it included pay hikes which no one else in the public sector would receive. If you take away the one thing that justified such a long-term contract, which to this day is seen as only half a carrot by the young doctors, then maybe we should welcome that there are already excellent grounds for cancelling the agreement."

Junior faculty unions forum chairwoman Dr. Esther Saruk is equally enraged, saying, "There is still plenty of fat which can be cut, such as the defense budget and allotments to the haredim (ultra-orthodox) before touching the junior faculty." She added, "I would be happy if the salaries of MKs or ministers were cut first, if only because of morality and conscientiously. Let them cut executive and CEO pay before taking away from students and doctoral students who work at the five universities for a living."

Secondary School Teachers Union chairman Ran Erez told "Globes", "The agreement we signed is a special agreement. It is basically a reform, and the fact that part of the pay raise was defined as the raises given to all public sector employees does not mean that we signed a framework agreement. That is why I do not believe that the Ministry of Finance can freeze our pay raise, and if it demands this, we will fight it."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on February 11, 2013

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2013

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