Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370.
(photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
Six months after declaring a labor dispute, and after gradually ratcheting up
sanctions, the Foreign Ministry’s top management entered the fray on Monday,
urging Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to do everything he can to end the
In the letter to Netanyahu, who is also foreign minister, the
ministry’s deputy directors- general and department heads said that the Finance
Ministry was tying up negotiations in red tape and preventing an
The workers are demanding improved salary and work
“The new challenges in the region and in the international
arena prove anew that the Foreign Ministry is an integral part of Israel’s
national security apparatus,” the letter said. “However, the resources invested
through the Foreign Ministry are – in comparative terms – among the lowest in
the world. And this at a time when Israel is under a harsh diplomatic attack and
facing delegitimacy campaigns, which requires increased activity precisely in
our spheres of work.”
The letter said that the problem was not only a
lack of budgets for programs and activity, but also that the salaries in the
Foreign Ministry are no longer competitive.
The letter said one-third of
the new cadets who joined the foreign service over the last years have left
because of an inability to make a living.
“We find it difficult to fill
positions, including those once considered attractive, because of poor
salaries,” the letter continued. “This requires a systematic solution that
addresses issues such as taxation abroad, pension, loss of income from spouses,
and salary adjustments.”
The letter also expressed the ministry’s concern
that spheres that were traditionally within its responsibility are being
parceled out to other ministers and ministries.
The coalition agreement
saw the creation of an international relations minister, Yuval Steinitz, as well
as the transferring of responsibility for Diaspora affairs to Economy and Trade
Minister Naftali Bennett.
The workers, however, did not suffice on Monday
with sending letters to Netanyahu. Members of the workers’ committee burst into
a meeting where the ministry’s top staff was sitting with the payroll officer
and essentially forced him to leave the room because of the Finance Ministry’s
plans to deduct 25 percent from worker’s salaries in the next paycheck because
of the sanctions.
The sanctions, meanwhile, continue to have an impact at
different levels. For the first time in recent memory, the ministry sent out a
schedule of high-level visits for August that was completely blank. A number of
foreign dignitaries have canceled their visits because of the labor
On another level, the Jerusalem Labor Court rejected a request
from the Education Ministry to compel the Foreign Ministry workers to issue
diplomatic passports to security guards who were to accompany some 18 groups of
Israeli youth that were to travel in the coming weeks to Poland. As a result,
the groups are now not expected to make the trip.