Despite vocal opposition from the government's own benches and opposition, wide-ranging budget cuts affecting all government ministries were approved Sunday by the cabinet to finance improved salaries and pensions for the country's security services.
The extensive cuts, valued at NIS 22 billion over two decades, will finance improved salaries and pensions for police officers, prison guards and employees of non-military security services, including the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Mossad, who have long complained of inferior conditions in relation to those serving in the IDF.
“This is good news for the police officers, retired policemen, the prison services, the Shin Bet and the Mossad, who are dedicated to protecting the country’s security. This is news they have long wished for,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The agreement states that from January 2019, all pensioners will receive the full wage supplement for their current salaries.
Also starting from January, currently-employed police officers and prison guards will receive supplements in two installments. As of January 2020, the agreed supplements will be paid in their entirety to all eligible individuals.
In addition, it was agreed that retroactive payments of NIS 7 billion, to cover payments due since 2006 onward, will be paid in installments over the course of 17 years (2019-2035) to ease the burden on the economy and the treasury, with preference given to pensioners and with an emphasis on elderly pensioners.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who has been at the forefront of the battle in favor of the policemen said: “I am proud to stand today, again, at the forefront of the struggle for the rights of policemen, prison guards and pensioners. After two months of intensive negotiations and after 13 years of withholding wages, the government today approved the just and binding decision to equalize their conditions with the conditions of career soldiers.”
“This is an amendment to a historical injustice that had no justification,” he continued. “Government decisions since the 1970s require that the salaries of policemen and prison guards be equalized to the wages of career soldiers, and three labor courts recognized this.”
Erdan also said that “anyone who is referring to the important decision about policemen and prison guards as a political consideration is lying... The negotiations between them progressed before the elections issue came up.”
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman (UTJ) criticized the cabinet’s decision.
“This is a grave decision that will seriously harm the health of Israeli citizens,” Litzman said. “I vehemently protested to the prime minister and other ministers over the expected cuts and I made it clear that it could lead to the destruction of the health system in Israel.”
Ahead of the vote, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel warned of great damage to Israeli agriculture should the cuts be approved.
“Agricultural needs are increasing. After the severe cuts to water supplies for agriculture, I will not allow the agriculture industry to be hit once again,” Ariel said. “I will not allow any cuts to harm Israeli farmers or agricultural research, which are at the forefront of global agriculture. Of course, the citizens of the State of Israel will also be harmed should the budget of the Agriculture Ministry be cut.”
Leader of the Zionist Union, Avi Gabbay, blasted the agreement.
“A government that makes ‘lateral cuts’ for all, without priorities, is a government that can be replaced by a Casio calculator,” Gabbay said. “It is possible to change, to establish a courageous government that sets priorities and that places at the top life itself, identifies problems and takes action.”
In a statement released prior to the vote, police said that in recent years it had been battling, together with the Public Security Ministry, to implement a government decision to close the gap between salaries and pensions received by career IDF soldiers and officers and police officers and prison guards, the former having benefited from superior conditions.
“In the framework of the struggle to redress the injustice of 13 years in the form of wage withholding, three different courts of the Labor Court have decided and recognized the rights of the policemen and pensioners to receive this supplement due to them by law,” the statement said. “Among other things, the court said: ‘The Ministry of Finance has implemented a policy that contradicts government decisions without being authorized to do so,’” and that “‘the Ministry of Finance has acted over the years in this context.’”
“It should be noted that the police do not have the right to strike or unionize with the aim of improving their salary terms and in general, and the decision to equalize the wages was given at the time as compensation for legislation that deprived the police of this right,” the statement continued.
Recently, police said, the police, the Public Security Ministry and representatives of the Finance Ministry reached a compromise agreement that would include the distribution of payments due to the police and pensioners over many years, “a situation that could have been avoided if the supplements were paid on time and on a regular basis.”
Police also slammed those linking the agreement with the elections, “sometimes with unacceptable contempt of the tens of thousands of policemen and retirees who have been serving and defending the citizens Israel for decades, when in practice the timetables for compensation stem from the court’s decision.”
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