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Foreign Ministry employees protest 'wage erosion'
By NIV ELIS AND HERB KEINON
13/02/2013
Government workers claim Foreign Service neglected, say number of diplomats stationed abroad in steady decline.
 
Some 150 workers from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Public Security Ministry and the Foreign Ministry protested in front of the Foreign Ministry in the capital on Tuesday morning, demanding incentive pay as government office directors met there to discuss budgets and plans for the coming year.

According to the Histadrut labor federation, the staff from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Public Security Ministry began protesting after the Finance Ministry rejected an appeal to add pay for good performance.

The Foreign Ministry workers joined to protest what they called “wage erosion and unilateral harm to pay and work conditions.”

“This is the first time government employees have cooperated and shown solidarity over the harm being done to workers in various offices,” said Daniel Bonfil, chairman of the Histadrut’s Jerusalem district.

A Treasury spokeswoman said that because the government had not yet passed a budget for 2013, it was too early to consider pay increases.

The fact that the government will have to cut some NIS 14 billion from the 2013 state budget will make salary increases all the more contentious.

Protests, the Treasury spokeswoman added, were not the best way to deal with the issue.

“The collective agreement establishes a mechanism that can be activated for such purposes: arbitration,” she said.

The Foreign Ministry’s workers committee, meanwhile, held a press conference later in the day calling for a NIS 500 million increase to the ministry’s budget to beef up its diplomatic corps around the world.

Yaakov Livne, the spokesman for the workers’ committee, said that Israel had essentially abandoned its Foreign Service.

“Even though the country’s leaders are aware of Israel’s complicated situation in the world and the need to change its public diplomacy, in practice the situation is worse than it ever was. Those who neglect diplomatic activity abroad are critically harming Israel’s national security,” he said.

According to a report prepared by the workers’ committee, the number of Israeli diplomats posted abroad is in steady decline, with the figure today standing at 220.

Israel had representatives in only 60 percent of the 160 countries with which it has diplomatic relations, the report said.

Israel has 100 diplomatic missions abroad, while the countries of the Arab world has 1,320, according to the report.
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