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Ninety-seven former security personnel at the prime minister's office during the Shamir and Rabin administrations are to receive NIS 10 million in compensation from the state. The Jerusalem Labor Tribunal found yesterday that they were not paid the entire salary to which they were entitled and that the minimum wage they were paid was calculated incorrectly.

The 97 filed a lawsuit 10 years ago regarding their employment conditions in the Prime Minister's Office from April 1987 through July 1993. The ruling was delayed, despite a ruling in favor of the guards from a regional labor tribunal. The prosecution appealed the ruling to the national and the guards filed a counterappeal.

In their suit, the workers claimed the minimum wage to which they were entitled was calculated incorrectly, leaving them with lower wages than was legal. They also charged they were shortchanged on wages for overtime, weekend and holiday duty.

The court sharply criticized the state's behavior in the matter.

"Throughout the proceeding, the state knew the employees were underpaid in a violation of minimum wage statutes and their contract. The state knowingly violated the plaintiffs' protected rights, and - worse yet - did so callously," the verdict states.

The ruling finds that the security guards have had to deal with legal proceedings since 1995, after discovering by chance that the state had ignored a collective bargaining agreement.

"This forced the security staff to conduct a drawn-out legal proceeding in regional and national labor courts," the court ruled. "This behavior by the state, in not paying workers lawful wages and in its legal wranglings against the plaintiffs, was not legitimate and justifies serious sanctions against the state."

Along with the ruling ordering the state to pay the plaintiffs the wages to which they were entitled, the state must pay the defendants' legal costs of NIS 3,000 a piece.

"There is no reason," the court wrote, "for defendants to pay out of pocket for the many years they were forced to wage this legal battle."