Foreign Ministry Strike Ends; Year-long Labor Dispute Over

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Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks at a toast ahead of the Passover holiday, Jerusalem, April 2, 2014. The sign on the lectern reads, 'Your word is your bond.'Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

The Foreign Ministry strike ended Wednesday evening, bringing to a close a year-long labor dispute and an unprecedented 10-day general strike that closed the ministry and all Israeli consular services abroad.

Representatives of the Histadrut, Foreign Ministry workers' committee and Finance Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday that will be the basis of a collective labor agreement to be signed with Foreign Ministry workers within 30 days.

The general strike of the 1,200-strong foreign service, which was the culmination of steadily escalating sanctions, forced the cancellation or curtailment of many foreign trips by Israeli officials and complicated life for Israelis overseas in need of passports and other consular services.

Early this month, the Foreign Ministry was reported as saying the sanctions had caused Pope Francis to cancel his trip to Jerusalem in May. Last week, however, the Vatican said its plans for the visit had been proceeding normally and that the Pope would pray in the holy city as scheduled.

The labor agreement is a compromise between the workers' demands and the Finance Ministry's offers. On one hand, the agreement gives the government "industrial peace" for several years, during which Foreign Ministry workers are pledged not to invoke any work sanctions. Also, the pact allows the ministry to determine its emissaries' second foreign postings according to its preferences, not just those of the emissaries.

On the other hand, the agreement improves the pension terms of ministry envoys and their partners. The Finance Ministry agreed to compensate these partners for the damage to their careers and pensions caused by their relocation overseas. In addition, the pact improves conditions for envoys abroad and gives financial incentives for serving in countries that present unusual difficulties. Furthermore, the agreement upgrades conditions for junior diplomats and shortens the time they must serve before promotion and attainment of a higher pay grade.

"The uniqueness of the diplomats' work is reflected in the [newly agreed] pay scales, which bring them a little closer to their colleagues in intelligence and the military, though a large gap remains that will have to be bridged in the future," the workers' committee stated. "We are pleased that the State of Israel understood the difficulties that its warriors abroad have to face, and we regret the unnecessary damage that has resulted. Tomorrow we will return to serving the country on the global front."

The Foreign Ministry workers' committee said the agreement for the first time ensures that the envoys' salaries will be determined by a transparent process, and be updated according to fluctuations in the cost of living in foreign countries. In addition, the agreement compensates envoys for being on-call and for their children's educational expenses, while job retraining for emissaries' partners will be expanded.

Foreign Ministry workers strike at the Ambassadors Conference.Credit: Foreign Ministry

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