Judges Seek Compensation for Pay Freeze

Israel's judges should be compensated for the salary freeze in 2009, the head of the judges' organization wrote to the Knesset Finance Committee chairman yesterday.

Judge Varda Alsech, the judges' representative, asked for a 3.3% raise, arguing that the cancellation of the wage freeze meant that things should return to their previous state. MK Moshe Gafni, the committee chairman, said he disagrees with Alsech's demand.

Salaries of public servants including judges and cabinet members are based in part on indexes such as the average salary and the consumer price index. At the beginning of 2009, however, public servants' salaries were frozen.

The freeze was lifted last month, at which point the judges - along with the president, Knesset members and others whose salaries are linked to those of these officials - received a 0.61% raise. This kept with the increase in the average salary.

In addition, the prime minister and the cabinet received a 3.9% raise, due to the increase in the CPI.

Recently, the Gronau Committee decided that MKs would not be compensated for the 2009 freeze. The Finance Committee had planned to update the pay of the president, judges and other linked salaries in keeping with that decision.

If the committee bows to the judges' demands, however, there could be implications for the salaries of other officials such as the prime minister and his cabinet - their salaries are linked to the consumer price index, which increased 3.8% in 2008.

In the wake of Alsech's letter, Gafni scheduled a committee discussion on the matter for next Tuesday. He is thought to be delaying a decision on ministers' salaries until the judge issue is settled.

"Instead of updating salaries in keeping with the aim of the freeze, as was done in the past, this is essentially a wage cut for those in the judicial profession. There is no way of interpreting this other than as a significant erosion of judges' salaries," Alsech wrote.

"The wage freeze and its cancellation are simply that, the cancellation of the freeze. That is, from the moment a freeze is canceled, the situation returns to as it was before," she added.

"To us, this appears to be an inappropriate attempt to present us with a fait accompli. No one consulted us or included us in this attempt to change things."

Gafni responded: "I believe judges's salaries should be updated like those of the president and those with linked salaries, by 0.6%. And they should not be given 3.3% compensation because of the wage freeze in 2009.