Foreign Ministry employees suspended on Thursday months of sanctions they have been maintaining in protest over working conditions, after Foreign and Finance Ministry representatives agreed to approach a mediator, the National Labor Court announced Wednesday. The employees, who have gradually stepped up sanctions over the past five months, are protesting wage cuts and reductions in the compensation packages offered to partners and spouses of those sent overseas. Last month, workers expanded their protest by halting all consular activities in Israel and abroad. As a result, thousands of Israelis have been stranded in foreign countries waiting to obtain renewed passports, and visiting business VIPs who require visas had to cancel trips to Israel.
An official statement issued by representatives of the ministry employees blamed the Finance Ministry for setting up unfair negotiation terms in the past and highlighted the union’s determination to achieve fair worker’s rights. “The Ministry of Finance was negotiating in bad faith, and [the judge] forced them to approach a mediator,” read the statement. “We are pleased that the Finance Ministry agreed to sit down and negotiate matters in a manner that comprehensively examines the data, and after shuffling their feet for an extended period of time, will hasten steps to restore Foreign Ministry services.”
Foreign Ministry employees’ demonstration in Jerusalem (Photo: Worker’s Union)
The bitter labor dispute between the diplomats and the Finance Ministry has been gathering force for months, and since April the workers union has been implementing sanctions aimed at disrupting Israeli officials’ visits abroad. The union asked staff to stop sending emails and diplomatic cables, along with additional measures to disrupt the functioning of the country’s foreign policy apparatus. Several ministers and other top officials had been forced to cancel travel plans because ministry staff refused to issue them diplomatic passports. Among those caught in the deadlock was Israel’s new ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, who has not received his diplomatic passport or any other paperwork.