FM officials urge Netanyahu to end ministry labor sanctions

Ministry's deputy directors general, department heads prod PM to do everything in his capabilities to end six-month crisis.

Netanyahu at cabinet meeting 370 (photo credit: Koby Gideon/GPO)
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 crisis.
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 agreement.
The workers are demanding improved salary and work conditions.
“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 dispute.
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.