Diplomats at Foreign Ministry 311 (do not publish again).
(photo credit: Flash 90)
Diplomats are always seen as polite, soft-spoken, seeking accommodation and
conciliatory. And yet, the diplomats of Israel’s Foreign Service are in a
feisty mood these days, taking strong measures and using tough language in a
labor dispute. Militant diplomats?!
The reasons are clear.
and multi-talented diplomats of the Foreign Service have been taken for granted
for too long. The salaries of young as well as veteran diplomats are
dismal. Twelve percent of the Foreign Service lives below the country’s
poverty line, and 25% receives welfare supplements. We are talking about people
who have language skills, broad knowledge in many areas, and serve their country
through thick and thin, at home and abroad.
Our diplomats overseas face
hostility and security threats, but in recent years often cannot make ends meet.
Diplomacy abroad does not consist of cocktail parties (which are only a tiny
fraction of any diplomats’ activities). Diplomacy abroad is a vast array of
intensive activities on behalf of the State of Israel.
represent the country on the front lines of the international arena. Those who
are in Jerusalem provide the backing, logistics, policy guidance and
instructions for activities abroad, as well as activities here. They are loyal
to the country, and more than willing to make great sacrifices, including those
made by their spouses and children.
But is the government loyal to its
THE SITUATION and salary conditions have deteriorated greatly over
the past 15 years or so. Several attempts to find solutions vis-à-vis the Finance
Ministry have met with a solid wall of obtuse deafness. Finally this
year, a labor dispute was declared. Even then, for several months the diplomats
took only minimal steps to give negotiations with the Finance Ministry a chance.
Finally a proposal was made by the Finance Ministry. To say it was insulting and
contemptuous is putting it mildly. The proposal would leave many sections of the
diplomatic corps with only a few crumbs to add to their salaries.
diplomats want the labor sanctions to end. We very much want to get back to our
work, with the dedication and intensity we have always shown. But we are not
virtual slaves; no one works for practically nothing. Certainly it will
be difficult to attract new members to the Foreign Service if all they have to
look forward to is lousy pay and growing frustration.
For us to do our
duty, the government should do its duty and properly address our
needs.The writer is head of the diplomatic employees workers’ committee.
He served as spokesperson in the Israeli embassy in Moscow and as a consultant
at our embassy in Berlin.