The government claims it wants to make public service more attractive and provide incentives for excellence, but it appears to be doing the opposite.

The Civil Service Commission recently announced that new public sector employees will actually be making 12 percent less than workers hired for the same positions previously.

These pay cuts will apply to employees with "personal contracts" and not those covered under the wage scales of the old collective bargaining agreements for veteran public servants.

The changes are set to take effect this month and will apply to economists; those with planning sector jobs in the Interior Ministry; experts such as engineers, biologists and psychologists; cadets in the diplomatic corps; and Environmental Protection Ministry employees.

Under the previous contracts, an economist at the lowest end of the state wage scale earned NIS 9,371 a month gross. Now they will make NIS 8,283 - a 12 percent cut.

Planning experts who previously made NIS 5,108 a month will now make NIS 4,515. Cadets in the Foreign Ministry training course for diplomats will see salaries drop from NIS 6,007 to NIS 5,310.

The most dramatic drop will come for experts at the very top of the professional scale, where monthly salaries will fall from NIS 28,089 to NIS 24,829.

A number of other benefits are to be cut as well, including pay for being "on call" and various incentive bonuses.

The cuts are apparently due to complaints by those employed under personal contracts who were not paid for overtime; employees under the new contracts are to receive overtime pay.

Some 7,000 out of 64,000 government employees - 11% of the total - are employed under these personal contracts.

Government employees under the old system of collective bargaining are represented by the Histadrut labor federation, but the new employees are not unionized.