Foreign Ministry workers scrap strike as deal signed with treasury

Foreign Ministry workers scrap strike as deal signed with treasury

Employees had threatened to shut down missions all over the world in protest of cutbacks and taxation of a monthly expenses stipend

Israel's Foreign Ministry building in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Israel's Foreign Ministry building in Jerusalem. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Foreign Ministry employees on Sunday called off a planned strike over budget cutbacks after signing a deal with Finance Ministry representatives.

The strike, which was to begin on Monday, would have seen Israeli missions shut down its operations on a different continent every day.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz welcomed the agreement averting the labor dispute.

“This agreement is an important step to strengthening the foreign service and its workers and will help Israel’s representatives abroad meet the assignments and challenges before them,” Katz wrote.

The deal will reportedly see a significant increase in budgeting as well as an agreement to tax half of a monthly stipend diplomats receive for expenses instead of the entire amount.

In this photo released on July 1, 2019, Foreign Minister Israel Katz visits the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Courtesy Katz’s office)

Earlier this month, Foreign Ministry employees announced that embassy staff would no longer take care of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s travel arrangements until their dispute with the Finance Ministry was resolved.

The workers union of the foreign and defense ministries said Israeli diplomats had been instructed not to handle the logistical preparations for Netanyahu’s upcoming overseas visits until further notice.

Israeli embassy workers had stopped issuing diplomatic passports to ministers, Knesset members and state emissaries, or process applications and licenses for arms sales.

Israeli diplomatic staff told The Times of Israel last week that they did not have money for coffee or flights to their postings.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boards a plane to go on an official state visit to Poland on June 12, 2013. Photo by Kobi Gideon / GPO /Flash 90

Foreign Ministry workers announced last month that they would be stepping up protests after the government passed a sweeping NIS 1.2 billion ($333 million) spending cut. The budget cuts further strained the Foreign Ministry’s already tight budget, leading to downgraded services at Israeli embassies.

Israel currently maintains 69 embassies, 23 consulates and five special missions, including its representative at the United Nations.

In May, a report by State Comptroller Yosef Shapira found that some Israeli ambassadors and their staff were living in uninhabitable conditions while on posts abroad. Shapira’s report said that many of the 250 or so properties and staff residences under the Foreign Ministry’s charge were in a dilapidated state.

The report detailed complaints from Israel’s ambassador to Nigeria about the rats and lice in the official residence, and noted that the envoy to Brazil slept on a mattress on the floor.

Diplomats went on strike over wage and budget disputes in 2014 and again in 2016, saying the treasury had dragged its feet on implementing a previous compensation agreement.

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