Several dozen retirees from the Israel Police and the Prisons Service on Wednesday pushed their way into the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem in a protest against the government’s failure to match their wages and pensions to career military personnel.
The protest came ahead of a cabinet meeting which was to decide on a proposal to raise the wages of IDF career personnel. Veterans of the police, prison service, Shin Bet internal security service and Mossad intelligence agency are also seeking the same boosts for those institutions.
Security guards closed off the area to all traffic, and some scuffles broke out between protesters and security guards, according to local media reports.
Government employees inside the building were ordered to lock cupboards containing classified documents once it became clear that there was a security breach. Ministers were told not to approach the entrance to the compound, and the planned cabinet meeting was postponed.
The ministers later used a side entrance from the adjacent Interior Ministry to reach the Prime Minister’s Office where the meeting was eventually held.
During the meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Interior Minister Gilad Erdan and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to hold negotiations with the pensioners and report back to the government within 54 days, the PMO said in a statement.
Media reports said that Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich had appealed for permission to attend the meeting in order to speak with ministers about the issue, but was the refused by the prime minister.
The PMO said in statement that “the Government Secretariat refrains from inviting interested parties to government meetings, and their positions are presented as part of the work of the staff before the issue is submitted to the government,” Hadashot TV news reported. “The position of the security bodies will be faithfully represented by the ministers in charge and the officials of the ministries.”
Earlier in the day the demonstrators had blocked a main road leading into Jerusalem.
The pensioners, who say they are acting on behalf of the current police and prison service staff, have been protesting for more than a year over the failure to implement a 1979 agreement that police and prison officer wages and retirement conditions be equal to those of employees at the Defense Ministry, which includes the IDF career soldiers.
Eight years ago, the police and prison officer pensioners organizations sued the Finance Ministry and state so that they could receive additional payments for hazard pay, which had been paid to IDF personnel since 2006, but not to the police, prisons, Shin Bet, or Mossad.
Last year the Labor Court finally ruled in favor of the police and prison officers, ordering they receive the bonus retroactively. So far no additional cash has been paid.
Interior Minister Gilad Erdan, who backs the police and prison officer demands, spoke about the struggle when he addressed a police ceremony in Jerusalem earlier in the day.
Erdan said that the cabinet proposal to increase IDF wages but not those of the police “discriminates between blood and blood and directly impacts the police and prison officers that today are at the forefront in the campaign against terror and crime, and who pay a heavy personal price. ”
Erdan charged the whole purpose of the proposal is to “artificially bypass the Labor Court decision.”
“It will be a sad day if the proposal passes,” he said.
Commissioner Alsheich thanked Erdan for his support saying “the injustice done to the police is unbelievable. In days when the homefront has become the front line, in days when it is mostly the police who are paying the price with their bodies and their lives in order to stand as a buffer against lone-wolf terror, your campaign is an unparalleled statement of appreciation.”