Israeli diplomats scrap plan to disrupt Trump visit over wage crisis
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Israeli diplomats scrap plan to disrupt Trump visit over wage crisis

Foreign Ministry workers' union say labor strike called off after treasury agrees to implement salaries agreement within two weeks

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Striking workers outside the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on Monday, March 24, 2014. Signs read: 'The couple has no pension' and 'The Foreign Ministry is on the front lines against anti-Semitism' (photo credit: Meital Cohen/Flash90)
Striking workers outside the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, on Monday, March 24, 2014. Signs read: 'The couple has no pension' and 'The Foreign Ministry is on the front lines against anti-Semitism' (photo credit: Meital Cohen/Flash90)

Foreign Ministry workers scrapped a plan to launch a labor strike aimed at disrupting the visit later this month of US President Donald Trump, after the ministry’s workers’ union reached an agreement with the Finance Ministry to implement a wage agreement within two weeks.

Earlier, the workers had threatened they would go ahead with the strike when the Finance Ministry’s agreement to implement the new wage deal did not have a time frame.

The diplomats vowed to be unrelenting in getting the previously formulated deal to be put into practice. On Wednesday night, representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the treasury and the Prime Minister’s Office met to discuss the deal.

The fight between the diplomatic service and the Finance Ministry over diplomats’ stagnant pay has been going on for several years. The diplomats have argued that past agreements were not honored and budgets were not approved.

Foreign Ministry workers said in a statement earlier that they’d “had enough of empty assurances and dishonest handling of labor relations.”

In a memo to all ministry employees in Israel and abroad, workers union head Hanan Goder said at the time diplomats should desist from participating in any preparations for Trump’s visit.

Jerusalem and Washington are in the midst of arranging a one-day visit by Trump to Israel reportedly slated for May 22.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump walk in the White House on February 15, 2017, followed by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (Shmulik Armani)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump walk in the White House on February 15, 2017, followed by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (Shmulik Armani)

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 employment conditions, diplomats said.

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.

In July 2013, Foreign Ministry workers called a labor dispute that disrupted foreign diplomatic 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, 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.

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