Dimona Nuclear Reactor Workers Earn Nearly Twice as Much as IDF, Civil Servants

Yet the reactor’s scientists and engineers earn salaries similar to those at other government institutions.

Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson
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A partial view of Israel's Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Negev desert.
A partial view of Israel's Dimona nuclear power plant in the southern Negev desert.Credit: AFP
Chaim Levinson
Chaim Levinson

The attorneys, technicians and administrative staff at the Dimona nuclear reactor earn salaries dozens of percent higher than those of other civil servants or security service personnel. Yet the reactor’s scientists and engineers earn salaries similar to those at other government institutions.

The same dichotomy holds true at two much smaller facilities, the Soreq Nuclear Research Center and the Israel Institute for Biological Research in Nes Tziona.

The number of people employed at these three facilities is classified. But the annual wage reports published by the Finance Ministry’s wages director reveal their salary structure.

As of 2013, the mean salary at these three facilities was 26,467 shekels ($6,919) a month. That is 72 percent higher than the average in the civil service as a whole and significantly higher than the average at the Defense Ministry, which has the second-highest mean at 21,110 shekels per month.

The median salary at the three facilities was 25,172 per month, which is 94 percent higher than the median in the civil service as a whole and 147 percent higher than the median in the Israel Defense Forces. Only 1.64 percent of workers at these three facilities earned less than the economy-wide average wage, compared to 13.57 percent in the civil service as a whole.

In the past, the treasury report listed the highest earners at all three facilities, but it stopped in 2012. Haaretz submitted a freedom-of-information request for various details about salaries at these facilities, but two weeks ago, the request was denied on the grounds that divulging this data would “undermine state security.”

The average wage of the three facilities’ research staff – experts in nuclear physics, materials science and nuclear chemistry – was 34,449 shekels a month. That is 19 percent higher than the average salary for all scientists in the civil service, roughly equivalent to the average salary of scientists employed by the IDF and the police, but significantly lower than the average salary of scientists employed by the Defense Ministry.

The facilities’ engineering staff earn about the same as do their colleagues in the Defense Ministry, police, Mossad and Shin Bet security service, but 42 percent more than engineers in the civil service as a whole and 22 percent more than engineers in the IDF.

Thus the enormous gap between average salaries at these three facilities and those in the rest of the civil service stems mainly from the salaries earned by non-research staff. There is no public supervision of these facilities’ wage agreements, and in the early 1980s the Dimona reactor’s powerful union demanded that the wages and benefits of non-research staff be put on a par with those of the research staff. As a result, all workers at these facilities get a special wage supplement.

Administrative workers at these facilities earn 15,895 shekels a month, on average. That’s about 40 percent higher than administrative staff in the civil service as a whole, 38 percent higher than administrative workers in the Shin Bet and Mossad, and 66 percent higher than administrative workers in the IDF.

Most workers at these facilities are technicians who assist the scientists. On average, these technicians earn 25,617 a month, which is 64 percent more than technicians in the civil service as a whole and 127 percent more than technicians in the IDF.

Workers in other departments also earn more than their counterparts elsewhere in the civil service. The doctors who regularly check workers for radiation, for instance, earn about 66,000 shekels per month, more than twice as much as doctors in the civil service as a whole. And employees of their legal departments earn, on average, 39,656 per month, double the average pay of lawyers in the civil service as a whole.

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