Foreign Ministry Workers Prepared to Call Strike at Any Moment

Israeli diplomats are threatening to disrupt arrangements surrounding the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama next week in Washington, over an ongoing labor dispute between Foreign Ministry employees and the Finance Ministry. The White House session scheduled for Monday will be the first meeting between the two heads of state in a year.

A demonstration of Foreign Ministry workers in front of the PM’s office in Jerusalem, during the last October’s strike

A demonstration of Foreign Ministry workers in front of the PM’s office in Jerusalem, during the last October’s strike (Photo: Foreign Ministry workers’ union)

The Foreign Ministry workers’ union warned on Thursday, November 5, that it sees itself entitled to call a strike of Israel’s diplomatic corp at home and aboard without further prior notice, thereby potentially disrupting the scheduled meeting next week. The union said it expects a swift response to its demands from the prime minister, who also holds the post of foreign minister.

The dispute over wages between the diplomatic service and the Finance Ministry has been going on for some time. The diplomats argue that past agreements are not being honored and budgets are not being approved. The head of the workers’ union, Hanan Goder, said Thursday that the diplomats take a “very grave” view of the situation regarding working conditions at the ministry.

“It’s unacceptable that envoys sent abroad cannot make ends meet, and employees in Israel must deal weekly with some new violation of their working conditions. We strongly protest the expected budget cuts for 2015-2016. These cut cruelly into the Foreign Ministry budget,” he said in a statement released to the press. “We will not hesitate to use every legal means available until wage agreements signed with us are honored by treasury officials,” he warned. “We demand of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the foreign minister: honor the agreements you’ve signed,” Goder said.

Back in August, the union said it would hold up processing the latest ambassadorial appointments. If the appointments are not processed, the new envoys will not be able to obtain diplomatic passports to travel to their new assignments. In November 2014, the union ended a strike after it signed a comprehensive agreement with Finance Ministry officials.