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Israeli Embassy reopens, catches up

Terms of agreement give government 'industrial peace' for years, improve pay and conditions substantially for diplomatic corps; 1,200 employees return to work. Pretoria embassy thanks public for their patience and worked long hours to catch up backlog.
by ANT KATZ | Apr 08, 2014

“We would like to thank the public for their patience”  -DCM Michael Freeman


Employees of Israel’s Foreign Ministry ended their two-week strike late last week with an agreement to increase pay for diplomats. In a statement, the Foreign Ministry Workers Union called the deal signed with the Finance Ministry an “outline” of a collective agreement that will be signed within a month, according to JTA.

 
Michael Freeman, the deputy head of mission at the Israeli embassy in Pretoria, told Jewish Report that since the end of the strike “embassy staff had worked extra hours to catch up with the backlog” of paperwork and they will be up to date soon.

“The most important thing,” says Freeman, “is that we would like to thank the public for their patience.” Freeman said that if anyone had special travel requirements they could contact the embassy.

Under the collective agreement, diplomat’s salaries will be adjusted according to the cost of living in the country in which they are working. Also, there will be compensation for spouses of diplomats for loss of work in their field and the Foreign Ministry will help pay for the education of foreign diplomats’ children.

“We are glad that the State of Israel understands the difficulties that the fighters of the Foreign Ministry must deal with and are sorry for the unnecessary damage that was caused,” according to a statement released Wednesday by the Foreign Ministry Workers Union. “Tomorrow the foreign fighters of Israel will return to the global front line.”

103 consular offices closed for two weeks

 

The open-ended strike shut down Israel’s 103 embassies, consulates and diplomatic missions around the world, and caused the postponement or cancellation of visits by several world leaders and trips by Israeli officials.

 

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The agreement brings to a close a year-long labour dispute and an unprecedented two-week general strike that closed the ministry and all Israeli consular services worldwide.

HAARETZ reports that representatives of the Histadrut, Foreign Ministry workers' committee and the Finance Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding that will be the basis of a collective labour agreement to be signed with Foreign Ministry workers within 30 days.

Israeli Embassy Open for business
PICTURED AT RIGHT: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks at a toast in Jerusalem last week. The sign on the lectern translates as: 'Your word is your bond'

 

The general strike of the 1,200-strong foreign service, which was the culmination of steadily escalating sanctions, forced the cancellation or curtailment of many foreign trips by Israeli officials and complicated life for Israelis overseas in need of passports and other consular services.

Early this month, the Foreign Ministry was reported as saying the sanctions had caused Pope Francis to cancel his trip to Jerusalem in May. Last week, however, the Vatican said its plans for the visit had been proceeding normally and that the Pope would pray in the holy city as scheduled.

MFA staffers hail new ‘transparency’  

 

As with all such agreements, the outcome is a compromise between the workers' demands and the Finance Ministry's offers. On one hand, the agreement gives the government "industrial peace" for several years, during which Foreign Ministry workers are pledged not to invoke any work sanctions. Also, the pact allows the ministry to determine its emissaries' second foreign postings according to its preferences, not just those of the emissaries.

On the other hand, the agreement improves the pension terms of ministry envoys and their partners. The Finance Ministry agreed to compensate these partners for the damage to their careers and pensions caused by their relocation overseas. In addition, the pact improves conditions for envoys abroad and gives financial incentives for serving in countries that present unusual difficulties. Furthermore, the agreement upgrades conditions for junior diplomats and shortens the time they must serve before promotion and attainment of a higher pay grade.

 
"The uniqueness of the diplomats' work is reflected in the [newly agreed] pay scales, which bring them a little closer to their colleagues in intelligence and the military, though a large gap remains that will have to be bridged in the future," the workers' committee stated. "We are pleased that the State of Israel understood the difficulties that its warriors abroad have to face, and we regret the unnecessary damage that has resulted. Tomorrow we will return to serving the country on the global front."

The Foreign Ministry workers' committee said the agreement for the first time ensures that the envoys' salaries will be determined by a transparent process, and be updated according to fluctuations in the cost of living in foreign countries. In addition, the agreement compensates envoys for being on-call and for their children's educational expenses, while job retraining for emissaries' partners will be expanded.

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