The Finance Ministry and Histadrut Labor Federation signed an agreement Wednesday ending Israel’s Foreign Ministry strike a week and a half after it began. The Foreign Ministry workers ended a 10-day strike that closed embassies around the world after signing a new agreement to improve their job conditions. The dispute had threatened to delay a visit by Pope Francis to Israel planned for May – one of 25 trips by foreign officials affected by what first started as a work slowdown on March 5, when wage talks broke down.
The staff escalated the action to a full strike a few weeks later – the first by the diplomatic corps since the country was established in 1948 – closing all of Israel’s 102 missions abroad and paralyzing most diplomatic work with other countries and the United Nations. The agreement will include: A new model for foreign assignments which will allow the Foreign Ministry to manage its workforce more effective; a new pension model not only for the diplomats, but also for their family members that have to leave their own careers behind; better work conditions abroad, that includes providing financial incentives for diplomatic missions with an emphasis on countries in which the diplomatic missions pose many challenges and an improved career advancement track for junior staff in the Foreign Ministry.
According to the agreement, wages of Israeli diplomats will be determined by an objective model used in OECD countries for wages, and in accordance with the price of living in each country. The workers said that their salaries, which ranged from NIS 6,000 to NIS 13,000 a month for lower-level employees and as high as 10,000 € a month for ambassadors in places like Germany, were not sufficient. The big ticket salaries, they noted, were subject to high taxes and used to fund secure vehicles and entertaining guests.