The treasury's supervisor of wages and labor agreements, Eli Cohen, has notified Finance Minister Ronnie Bar-On that he plans to step down at the end of July, after a serving two years in this capacity. Cohen plans to take on a senior position in the business sector.
Cohen, 37, has served in a variety of positions in the public sector for the past 10 years. He worked with Benjamin Netanyahu when he served as prime minister, and later when he was finance minister. He was appointed director general of the Tourism Ministry four years ago by then minister Gideon Ezra, and stayed on when Ezra was replaced by Avraham Hirschson. As director general of the Tourism Ministry, Cohen was behind the 'Open Skies' plan.
Cohen was appointed supervisor of wages when Hirschson took up the position of finance minister, and continued to work with subsequent ministers Olmert and Bar-On after Hirschson was forced to step down.
Cohen was recently been offered the job of heading the Israel Lands Administration, which he refused. Cohen remains adamant about his intention to move into the free market after 10 years in the public sector.
His two-year stint in the treasury has been a stormy one, during which public sector labor agreements have been reached after many years of feet dragging.
Cohen made an indelible mark with his long battle with the Bank of Israel over civil service wage norms within the central bank, butting heads with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he served as acting finance minister, and central bank governor Stanley Fischer. A number of outstanding issues are now subject to an arbitrator's decision, and the parties are nearing an end to the dispute between them. The issue of monies improperly received by senior bank officials remains open.
A number of central wage agreements in the public sector were signed during his tenure as wages supervisor, including the wages reform in the elementary school system, wages agreements in the defense establishment and universities, and a 10-year collective wage agreement signed about a week ago. He has also lead the arbitration process over doctors wages, which has not yet been settled.
The treasury will begin its search after Independence Day for a replacement for Cohen, from within the treasury or from outside the ministry.
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