Foreign ministry workers on Monday announced they would begin a labor action later in the week aimed at disrupting an expected upcoming visit by US President Donald Trump.
In a memo to all ministry employees in Israel and abroad, head of the workers union head Hanan Goder said diplomats should desist from participating in any preparations for Trump’s visit.
The fight between the diplomatic service and the Finance Ministry over low pay has been ongoing for several years. The diplomats argue that past agreements are not being honored and budgets are not being approved.
Jerusalem and Washington are in the midst of arranging a one-day visit by Trump to Israel, rumored to be on May 22. No formal date has been set.
It’s not clear what effect the strike will have on preparations for the visit, but Goder said workers would be prohibited from processing paperwork, attending planning meetings, placing orders with vendors or any other activities related to the high-level trip.
“We have no choice but to go down the path of serious organizational measures that will impact the diplomatic and organizational schedule,” he said in a statement, citing a lack of progress in implementing a wage agreement.
In addition, Goder, who is Israel’s ambassador to South Sudan, also instructed workers to not join meetings concerned with a plan to bring Portuguese and Chinese workers to Israel to assist in the construction of new housing.
The ministry’s union and treasury officials reached a verbal agreement on salaries two months ago, but since then the treasury has not drawn up a formal agreement and as a result, there has been no change in their employment conditions, diplomats say.
Among the changes workers expect from the deal are salary increases based on the cost of living in countries where they serve and incentives to work in less attractive countries.
The Finance Ministry told Army Radio last week that the details of the agreement were undergoing legal formulation, which was causing the delay.
This is not the first time the union has tried to flex its muscles over labor disputes, disturbing diplomatic activity.
In July 2013, Foreign Ministry workers called a labor dispute that disrupted foreign appointments. At the time, Israel’s newly appointed ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, was caught up in delays that prevented him receiving his diplomatic passport and other paperwork.
The diplomatic corps staged a general strike for similar reasons in 2014. The two-week strike, which shuttered Israel’s embassies and consulates worldwide, halting immigration, ended with an agreement with Finance Ministry officials to increase the pay and improve the conditions of Israeli diplomats.
In 2015, Israeli diplomats threatened to disrupt arrangements surrounding the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-US president Barack Obama in Washington, over the ongoing labor dispute.
Times of Israel of staff contributed to this report.