Israeli Diplomats to Go Back to Work in Bid to End Labor Dispute

Employees to negotiate with the Foreign Ministry and temporarily halt partial strike.

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Foreign Ministry employees have temporarily lifted their partial strike and agreed to enter mediation in a bid to end a six-month-old labor dispute. The compromise was reached Wednesday at the Jerusalem District Labor Court.

Foreign Ministry employees will go back to work in Jerusalem and at Israeli offices throughout the world on Thursday afternoon. Employees will resume sending diplomatic cables and handling both Israeli officials’ visits abroad and foreign envoys’ visits to Israel. All consular services will resume both at the Foreign Ministry and throughout the world.

The ministry’s wages and labor agreements chief, Kobi Amsalem, said that as part of the deal the ministry would temporarily lift its sanctions. The ministry has cut pay for all striking employees by 25 percent and stopped rent reimbursements for diplomats living abroad.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Judge Dita Pruginin said the two sides must agree on a mediator by Thursday and report on progress by September 15. The judge harshly criticized the Finance Ministry, saying it had not made any suggestions for a solution.

The employees denied that they gave in to the ministry’s sanctions and called the compromise an achievement. They noted that the ministry had hitherto refused to hold any negotiations at all.

“We welcome the judge’s decision to support what we have been calling for over the past four months,” the employees said in a statement, adding that the ministry had been “negotiating in poor faith.”

According to the employees, “We are glad that the Finance Ministry has understood that it must sit down and hold real, serious negotiations .... After a long period of foot-dragging, the Finance Ministry must step up its efforts to put Israel’s Foreign Ministry back on the course of a professional diplomatic service.”

Striking Foreign Ministry workers, June 25, 2013.Credit: Emil Salman

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