Wage Excesses Raging at Gov't Companies

Public-sector workers make double the average wage, with doctors earning the most, says report.

The year 2008 may have been marked by recession, job insecurity and anxiety, at least in the private sector. But public-sector workers continued to make hay as usual, often earning more than the law allows, according to the annual public sector wages survey, which was published yesterday.

Workers at government-owned companies typically made double the average wage, grossing NIS 17,056 a month, says the report collated by the Finance Ministry's supervisor of wages.

The top 12 public-sector earners in 2008 all belonged to the medical sphere. The two highest salaries in the entire public sector went to department heads at Clalit Health Services. The director of cardiac and thoracic surgery at Soroka Hospital, Gideon Sahar, grossed NIS 95,076 a month in 2008. In terms of wage cost to taxpayers, that works out to NIS 111,054.

Clalit's head of vascular surgery, Gabriel Szendro, grossed NIS 87,664 before taxes, at a cost of NIS 94,322 to the state. Third came Shmuel Muallem, CEO of the Meuhedet health maintenance organization, with a gross salary of NIS 82,410 a month.

Also starring on the list of high civil service earners was the Middle Eastern affairs analyst for Channel 1 television: Oded Granot was singled out for mention by the supervisor of wages. Granot was reported to have grossed an average of NIS 47,495 per month, 51% more than his boss, the director of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, who earned NIS 31,505.

The supervisor of wages divided workers into three categories: managers; high earners (people earning more than 85% of a managing director's salary); and employees whose wages are based on a ranking system for state workers.

The managers of state-funded organizations averaged the most: NIS 30,627 a month. Religious council managers averaged the least, grossing NIS 12,155.

In the category of "ranked wage earners," workers at state-owned companies grossed the highest wages - at NIS 16,232 - while employees of municipal companies in this group made the least: NIS 5,135.

Somehow, the highest average salaries in the category of "public institutions" went to the 53 employees of the Industrial Development Bank of Israel: they grossed NIS 27,676 a month last year.

The 1,049 Haifa Port workers came in second, averaging a gross monthly salary of NIS 24,070, followed by the Israel Ports Development & Assets Co., where 121 workers earned an average of NIS 23,801.

The 1,271 Ashdod port workers averaged NIS 22,504 a month, while 163 employees of the watchdog Israel Securities Authority grossed NIS 21,861 on average.

The 4,864 employees of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, which makes armaments, earned an average of NIS 21,142, while 12,004 workers at the national utility Israel Electric Corporation grossed an average of NIS 20,016 a month.

The supervisor of wages also released figures on excess wages, which are salary supplements or their equivalent that are paid illegally and without authorization by the wages supervisor. Enforcement operations found that excess wages were paid in about 20% of all public sector organizations. The biggest excesses were to be found among government-funded organizations, and as in the prior year, mainly in institutions of higher education.

Some NIS 181 million out of public coffers were saved thanks to activities of the wage regulator's enforcement unit in 2009, and more than NIS 4 billion since the unit's inception 11 years ago.

The Finance Ministry's wages director, Ilan Levin, stated that the report proves the government's enforcement efforts are bearing fruit, and said he intended to step up enforcement so that taxpayer money is used for "worthy purposes, not illegal salaries."