Striking Israeli Diplomats Get 25% Pay Cut as Foreign Ministry Struggles to Halt Labor Dispute

Union officials accuse the Finance Ministry of ignoring the premier’s instruction to find a solution to the labor dispute.

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The Finance Ministry has ordered a 25 percent pay cut for striking diplomats as part of the government’s efforts to break the strike of Foreign Ministry employees.

Foreign Ministry workers have been on partial strike for five months and union leaders accuse Finance Ministry officials of rejecting compromise, despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's directive to find a solution.

Wage and Labor Agreements Director Kobi Amsalem ordered the salary cut last Wednesday, along with a 25 percent reduction in the rent reimbursement for hundreds of diplomats abroad. The order was contained in a letter, titled ‘salary deductions due to partial strike’, that Amsalem sent to Mordechai Elisha, a senior deputy of the Accountant General. The deduction will be applied from July salaries.

Amsalem’s letter included a long list of the employees whose salaries will be cut. The list was made available to Finance Ministry officials by senior officials of the Foreign Ministry administration, with the knowledge of ministry director-general Rafael Barak.

Several weeks ago, union and Finance Ministry representatives agreed to open intensive talks, which failed after several days. Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin, who was party to the talks, told the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee last Wednesday that the negotiations had “reached an impasse, since the Finance Minister did not direct his representatives to negotiate an end to the dispute."

The employee strike is expected to escalate soon into a general strike affecting both the ministry in Israel and offices abroad. In the meantime, Israeli consulates and embassies have almost completely halted the processing of requests by Israeli citizens abroad, an action that could create serious problems for thousands of Israelis travelling abroad during the summer vacation and September holidays.

The diplomats are demanding wage rises to the value of NIS 50 million, as well as a further NIS 50-100 million for the representatives abroad of other Israeli institutions, such as the Mossad and Shin Bet.

Foreign ministry employees protesting in June, 2013.Credit: Emil Salman

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