Foreign Ministry union threatens to disrupt Italian PM’s visit to Israel

The Foreign Ministry workers’ committee threatened Thursday to disrupt the upcoming visit of Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta as part of the diplomats’ labor action. A source at the Foreign Ministry said workers’ committee chairman Yair Fromer had phoned Italy’s ambassador to Israel, Francesco Talo, to convey the message. Italy’s Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who is facing his own battle against the Italian unions and working class, reportedly insisted that the visit will go ahead as planned, “to avoid the appearance of giving in to strikers.”

Foreign Ministry employees heightened their 3-month old labor dispute last week by halting virtually all consular services abroad. The only exceptions will be emergencies, the repatriation of bodies to Israel and procedures relating to adoption and surrogacy. The employees are demanding a collective agreement and are concerned about issues such as salary erosion. They also want a procedure for compensating spouses who are living abroad but not working, and the halting of double taxation on diplomats.

Foreign Ministry employees’ demonstration in Jerusalem, June 25, 2013 (Photo: Foreign Ministry workers committee)

“The Finance Ministry is stalling for time, is treating us with contempt and is indifferent to the distress of the Foreign Ministry workers and the tens of thousands of Israelis abroad who are suffering the consequencesof the labor dispute,” the ministry’s workers’ union said in a statement. “We call on all citizens hurt by the sanctions to appeal to Kobi Amsalem, head of the Finance Ministry’s wages and labor-accord unit, and demand an end to the dispute.”