Foreign Ministry likely to declare strike

“Someone who comes to work at the Foreign Ministry is either an idiot or idealist or their parents have money,” says Israel's ambassador to South Sudan.

February 26, 2017 01:27
1 minute read.
Israeli embassy in Athens

Bullets holes are seen of the wall of the Israeli embassy in Athens December 12, 201. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Workers at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem and 102 Israeli embassies and consulates around the world are expected to go on strike Sunday to protest wage agreements that have not been updated in more than 10 years.

The strike is expected to be more serious than others at the ministry in the past because workers are angry that a deal reached almost three years ago was never implemented. The workers are being represented by the Histadrut labor federation, which is in the middle of a high-profile leadership election campaign between chairman Avi Nissenkorn and Zionist Union MK Shelly Yacimovich.

“The salaries in the Foreign Ministry have eroded significantly,” Nissenkorn told The Jerusalem Post. “We want our representatives abroad to be fighters for our country, and to do that, they must be paid wages that are fair.”

The Foreign Ministry Workers Union sent a letter to the employees last week warning them of the impending labor dispute, which is set to be approved at a union meeting Sunday morning. Union head Hanan Goder said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised him personally, in his capacity as foreign minister, that an agreement would be signed by February 15. Histadrut officials said it is possible that labor sanctions could be declared initially rather than a full strike.
Anti-Israel protest outside Israeli embassy in Washington in 2014

“We are not looking for headlines, just our fair wages,” said Goder, who is Israel’s ambassador to South Sudan. “We have tried everything else. We have waited. But we haven’t even received a proposal from the Treasury in writing.”

An agreement signed in 2014 promised a new wage model within six months. Not only did that not happen, the Treasury asked the workers to redistribute salaries internally without any raise at all from the state.

The Foreign Ministry’s budget is NIS 1.5 billion, of which 95% is spent on the upkeep of the embassies, consulates and salaries.

The ministry’s operating budget for activities around the world in only NIS 80 million, which Goder said was tantamount to the State of Israel canceling its operations around the world.

Four junior Israeli diplomats quit this month, due in part to their low wages.

“Someone who comes to work at the Foreign Ministry is either an idiot or idealist or their parents have money,” Goder said. “It’s an exciting career, but it doesn’t pay.”

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