Foreign Ministry Union Threatens Shutdown

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel’s Foreign Ministry is seething with labor troubles once again, as the union threatened to shut down operations if their grievances are not addressed, The Times of Israel reported on Sunday evening.

Foreign Ministry Workers Union hoisted a black flag on the ministry’s flagpole on Sunday morning, to protest their working conditions.

Over 100 employees stood outside the ministry building with signs bearing slogans such as “don’t rely on us” and “you can’t pay for groceries with patriotism.”

The union leadership said “it pains us to see the foreign minister choose to ignore the cries of Foreign Ministry workers who are dedicated to their jobs, instead of leading the way to a resolution and negotiations.”

“We will shut down the Foreign Ministry if we need to,” Yerushalayim Histadrut Labor Union chairman Dani Bonfil said. “Workers are not asking for a raise; they want the rights that were taken from them. We will go all the way to protect the workers’ rights.”

The Foreign Ministry Workers Union members stopped working past regular hours as of last week to protest not being paid overtime.

When Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov canceled his trip to Israel last month, officially for personal reasons, the union claimed the real reason was because the workers refused to handle the visit, and that Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s lack of response to their demands was the cause.

The demand for better treatment has gone on for years without any satisfactory permanent settlement.

The Ministry’s budget has been cut repeatedly: for example, in 2019, the budget dropped to NIS 1.385 billion, even though the ministry’s necessary expenses were assessed at NIS 1.53b. The budgets of all government ministries increased by an average of 5.7% in 2019, compared to 2018, but the Foreign Ministry’s dropped 14.7%.

They are paid for only two “on-call” days per month, whereas in reality many need to be available 24 hours a day, every day.

While the pandemic has added to the workload of personnel in consular services abroad, dealing with thousands of requests to enter Israel, which means many more hours of work, they are not paid for it.

Despite an agreement reached in 2017 to raise the salaries of Foreign Ministry employees, the union said payment for the expenses of diplomats posted abroad has been cut to the extent that they are earning less than before.