Foreign Ministry workers renew sanctions over salaries

Employees don T-shirts reading, ‘I am a poor diplomat’; sanctions include stopping contact with other ministries, circulating cables, mail.

Diplomats at Foreign Ministry 311 (do not publish again) (photo credit: Flash 90)
Diplomats at Foreign Ministry 311 (do not publish again)
(photo credit: Flash 90)
The Foreign Ministry’s annual meeting for heads of Israel’s diplomatic delegations abroad was disrupted Monday and a meeting with President Shimon Peres cancelled, when the ministry’s workers committee called for sanctions to protest poor pay.
Hanan Goder-Goldberger, the head of the workers committee for the ministry’s diplomatic staff, announced Monday it was renewing work sanctions after it received an offer for an 8-percent pay increase that Goder-Goldberger characterized as “insulting.”
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The ministry workers have been waging a work dispute since February to equalize their pay and work conditions with those of Defense Ministry and Mossad employees. A number of the workers showed up at the annual meeting for the heads of delegations wearing black T-shirts that read, “I am a poor diplomat.”
Goder-Goldberger said that the salary of the diplomatic staff at the ministry had eroded by more than 40 percent over the last 17 years, and that the ministry’s workers were determined not to “subsidize” the government diplomatic efforts any longer.
He said that fully one-eighth of the ministry’s employees were earning a salary placing them below the poverty line, and that the current salary structure would ensure that only those from wealthy families, whose parents could continue to support them, would be able to join the country’s foreign service.
The sanctions that went into effect Monday included the following:
• All services and contact with other governmental ministries, including the Prime Minister’s Office, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), Mossad, Defense Ministry, IDF, police, Knesset and local authorities, will be stopped.
• The Foreign Ministry will not circulate diplomatic cables or mail to any of the other ministries.
• The Foreign Ministry will not provide any logistical support for incoming visitors, or government officials traveling abroad.
• No one will be permitted access to the ministry who is not a ministry employee, and there will be no meetings with any outsider in the building.
• Diplomatic passports will not be issued.
• Permits for foreign workers will not be issued at Israel’s consulates abroad, and laissez- passer will not be issued to Israelis who have lost their passports abroad.
• Employees will come to work in informal dress (jeans and tennis shoes) as a show of protest.
One ministry employee said it was inconceivable that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was getting involved in solving the state prosecutors’ strike, but not involving himself in the Foreign Ministry work dispute.
On Sunday, Netanyahu, for the first time in the 40-day-old state prosecutors’ strike, instructed his office’s director- general to meet with representatives of the Finance Ministry and the lawyers to resolve that dispute.