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Foreign Ministry workers re-launch work sanctions
By HERB KEINON,NIV ELIS
03/04/2014
Consular services, trips abroad by senior officials and visit to Israel by foreign dignitaries to be affected.
 
After a seven-month hiatus, the Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic workers decided Tuesday to relaunch work sanctions that crippled the ministry’s day-to-day functioning for much of last year and led to the cancellation of a number of high-level visits.

The sanctions were called after the workers rejected proposals for better working conditions put on the table by the Treasury after a seven- month mediation process.

As of Tuesday, the workers claim they will not provide consular services; not service official visits either to Israel from foreign dignitaries or abroad by Israeli officials, including the president and prime minister; will not issue diplomatic passports; and will stop logistical support for political appointees taking up their positions abroad.

These steps were taken, according to a statement put out by the ministry’s workers committee, after the Treasury put forward to the mediator a “disgraceful proposal that does not include any solution to the situation that the foreign service finds itself, and does not serve as a basis for any real discussions.”

Last August the ministry workers agreed to suspend their five-month-old work sanctions following an agreement with the Finance Ministry to appoint an agreed-upon mediator to end the crisis.

In return for that decision, the Finance Ministry agreed not to deduct 25 percent from the workers’ salaries because of the sanctions.

In an angry and combative statement, the workers committee said the “cynical disregard by the Treasury officials of the foreign service directly harms Israel’s citizens, their security and the status of Israel in the world.”

The statement said that Israeli diplomacy was not a plaything for bureaucrats “without an understanding of what Israel and its representatives are facing everyday in every country around the world.”

The workers called on Finance Minister Yair Lapid to be the “responsible adult” and get involved to solve the crisis.

According to the statement, fully one-third of the ministry’s “young diplomats” have left the foreign service when they realized that they could not make it financially. The gross salary for the first five years for someone entering the foreign service is NIS 5,700 a month, and after 10 years that figure goes up to NIS 9,000 a month.

In addition, according to the statement, the salaries for diplomats abroad has not been adjusted for more than a decade and does not provide a livable wage.

The Finance Ministry shot back that it had already offered a program that improves the conditions of workers and their spouses in accordance with workers requests.

“Despite this, the workers insist on a salary increase for the highest wage earners in the office. We call on the workers not to thwart the mediation process and to respond in a substantive fashion to the proposal,” a ministry spokesman said.
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