Non-diplomatic Staff at Israeli Missions Abroad Go on Strike Over Pay

Israelis working at embassies around the world demand increased compensation that was promised in 2017

An archive photo from March 23, 2010 shows Israel's embassy in central London.
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

Non-foreign service employees at Israeli diplomatic missions have gone on strike in protest at the Foreign Ministry’s failure to pay them increased compensation that they had been promised a year ago.

In fact, the Foreign Ministry had announced a year ago that it had resolved the dispute with Israelis working at embassies around the world who are not members of the foreign service and the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee of new regulations addressing the issue.

The regulations make the Israelis in question, who fill various support positions at the country’s diplomatic missions around the world but who are not sent abroad by the Foreign Ministry are to be considered Israeli civil service employees. The step was supposed to address the discrimination the support staff have experienced over the years in the salaries that they have received compared to members of the foreign service who are posted at diplomatic missions by the Foreign Ministry.

The 2017 agreement provided for an increase in the salaries of the non-foreign service staff and an increase in the government’s contribution to their pensions. Some were also due to receive grants of 5,000 to 10,000 shekels ($1,400 to $2,800), depending on their seniority, and even moving expenses to the country of their employment in some cases.

As far back as December of last year, however, differences of opinion surfaced between the finance and foreign ministries over which government budget the new benefits would be paid from. The Finance Ministry has said that the support staff are employees of the Foreign Ministry, which should bear the cost, but the Foreign Ministry has insisted that the new benefits can only be paid if the Finance Ministry foots the bill.

For its part, the Foreign Ministry said that the one-time grants alone, not considering the salary increases, would cost 10 million shekels to fund, and that the Foreign Ministry simply doesn’t have the money to pay for the plan.

The Foreign Ministry has said that the Finance Ministry could resolve the problem by approving “a relatively small budget increase” to cover it, but the Finance Ministry has been adamant that it is the responsibility of every ministry to cover the expenses involved in agreements that it signs with its employees.

In the interim, the Israelis subject to the agreement have still not seen the benefits of the agreement and have now gone on strike, which is expected to disrupt the operations of embassies and consulates around the world.

The Foreign Ministry declined comment for this article, while the Finance Ministry said: “The Foreign Ministry needs to fulfill the decision and fund the agreement that it signed.”