Bottom Shekel / Doctors Have What to Learn From MKs

Knesset members offers a striking example for all disgruntled employees.

All of the striking doctors, municipal workers, social workers and prosecutors can learn something from Knesset members. The 120 legislators do not need to declare a work dispute or strike. They also don't require negotiations with the Finance Ministry or to bring the Prime Minister in to intervene and force the treasury to accept their demands.

The MKs know precisely how to get what they want, even without Histadrut labor federation chairman Ofer Eini. They know better than anyone how to make demands, represent themselves, negotiate with themselves and even to make decisions regarding themselves.

Meir Sheetrit
Tomer Appelbaum

In a meeting called during the Passover recess, the Knesset House Committee decided to establish a committee of MKs, headed by Meir Sheetrit (Kadima ), "to examine the entire issue of employment conditions for MKs and the people who work for them, including how such employment conditions are set."

Raising the salaries of the 120 MKs will also grant raises to some 1,500 public officials whose salaries are linked to those of MKs as well as retirees.

Five MKs voted to establish the new subcommittee, including Knesset House Committee chairman Yariv Levin (Likud ). Only two MKs voted against, including Eitan Cabel (Labor ), who called the new committee a "union for MKs." The committee will certainly be sure to make its own members happy and agree to some of the demands from MKs on their conditions.

What do they really want?

What are the MKs' claims? Some have complained that NIS 34,000 a month plus a car is too little. "Even senior officials in the public service make more," some MKs have said. Once upon a time people said things like "Legislators are performing their duty for the country." Today, many MKs complain about what they are missing on the "outside."

Another common complaint from MKs is that they are forced to start their careers all over after only one term in the Knesset. But what happens to the average worker who changes jobs and then is fired? Who takes care of them?

MKs are also demanding larger pensions - an additional 50 percent to 100 percent over their present pension benefits - as well as other improved conditions.

It is hard to imagine how to improve their conditions. They already have two parliamentary aides, the services of the Knesset Research and Information Center, a big office, a leased car, office and computer equipment, and of course their budget for "contact with citizens."

On the subject of connecting to the voters, many MKs do not even know where their own local parliamentary offices are located - and when they are open. Maybe it would be better to do away with these local offices and use the money for equipment to help MKs do their jobs?

And of course, it is worth remembering that any MK who thinks they are losing too much money by serving the public can simply quit whenever they want. There are plenty of other people who would be more than happy to take their place.

But even those who leave are certainly not facing a life of want or need. MKs do not make the big money while serving in the Knesset; that comes later. Many jump to jobs loaded with money and power after leaving the legislature and going to work for the tycoons.

It is possible, and maybe even desirable, to discuss MKs' work conditions and their aides' salaries properly. But to do so does not require a brand new committee of MKs. All they need to do is present their requests to the existing independent public committee on the matter, the Gronau committee, instead of taking matters into their own hands.

The doctors and social workers can only look on enviously from outside. While they work hard, day and night, holidays and weekends, MKs are the cats guarding the cream. In the end, MKs will vote themselves improved conditions. Maybe public opinion will have some influence on them, but it is much more likely they will laugh all the way to the Knesset - or the business world.