Protest banners on Foreign Ministry building in Jerusalem: The fight for home starts abroad..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Nearly six months after ending a 11-day strike, Foreign Ministry workers took to the halls in the ministry with megaphones on Wednesday to disrupt meetings in protest against the Treasury’s failure to sign a collective agreement with the workers.
“There will not be quiet in the Foreign Ministry until a collective agreement is signed,” said Yair Frommer, the head of the workers’ committee.
“The workers waited a long time with great patience, in the hope that the labor dispute would end with the signing of a collective agreement on time, as the Finance Ministry committed itself at the end of the strike.”
Further spontaneous actions to disrupt the routine work inside the ministry is expected in the coming days, according to a workers’ committee statement.
Frommer said that the Finance Ministry’s “feet dragging” was harming Israel’s “vital interests.” In a veiled threat of upcoming sanctions, he called on Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and the ministry’s administration to mobilize around this issue and push for the signing of an agreement before “the holidays and the UN General Assembly at the end of September.”
The 11-day strike in March closed embassies abroad and prevented high-profile visits both to and from Israel, and prevented normal diplomatic activity, including work at the UN.
The strike, the first of its kind in the state’s history, was the culmination of a labor dispute that stretched back to the beginning of 2013 over salaries and work conditions for diplomats serving at the ministry in Jerusalem and abroad. The fullscale strike followed a string of lesser labor sanctions that led to Israel being without representation at countless meetings around the world, and left scores of Israelis without badly needed consular services.
That strike ended with an agreement that an updated collective agreement would be drawn up that would take into consideration the rising cost of living overseas, compensation for spouses of diplomats who often sacrifice careers and lose pension benefits to join their husbands or wives abroad, and the need to provide more support to the families of diplomats abroad, including reimbursement for education costs and job retraining for spouses.
Amid difficult work conditions, and an increasing number of young diplomats leaving the foreign service for higher paying and less demanding jobs in the private sector, the ministry opened a cadets’ course this week for eight aspiring diplomats, part of a group of 28 overall recently accepted out of 2,700 applicants.
The newest class is evenly split between women and men, and includes two lawyers, a political analyst, a journalist, a sports agent, a cello player and the grandson of one of Israel’s first ambassadors, Ehud Avriel. The average age of the cadets is 31.