The fierce labor dispute in the Israeli Foreign Ministry is taking another step, and starting to affect Israeli citizens requiring consular assistance abroad, as well as hitting the advocacy efforts of diplomats in foreign countries.
For the past two weeks, the Israeli embassies around the world are taking part in the injunctions carried out by the ministry's employee union and have not provided services to dozens of Israelis in need of passports to come back to the country.
The union is now contemplating turning the sanctions into a general strike and shut down all Israeli missions to foreign countries. "If we won't strike now, we won't have consular couriers in the world anymore," said Yair Fromer, chairman of the Foreign Ministry Diplomatic Workers' Union. "We're not punishing anyone – we're simply taking action within the framework of the law."
After a 7-month mediation process with the Finance Ministry, the Foreign Ministry's workers quit the mediation process, and are continuing to protest what they claim is a series of failures in their terms of employment, including low salaries that are even lower than what is reported, insufficient benefits and inadequate pension plans.
The list of complaints also includes the fact that the diplomats' salaries have not been updated in 10 years, and the cost of living in different countries outweighs their poor salaries.
"As of today, one of three diplomats leaves the diplomatic service due to economic hardship and inability to support their families," the diplomats' union said.
Israeli embassies and consulates have stopped their advocacy activities around the world, as reflected in the lack of information presented around the exposure of the Iranian arms ship Klos C.
In addition, alongside terminating Israeli consulate services around the world, it was decided by the workers' union recently to stop planning Independence Day receptions, which are the flagship events in all Israeli embassies worldwide with tens of thousands of guests.
In the situation that was created, those who are mostly significantly hurt by the sanctions are Israeli citizens abroad without passports. More than 1,000 requests have been filed to the ministry's exceptions committee, however only a handful of applications were granted.
It is claimed that since the Foreign Ministry workers have stopped issuing traveling visas to Israel, hundreds of tourists have cancelled their trips to the Holy Land, causing a loss of some $10 million to the tourism industry.
" We are trying to minimize the damage and the suffering of the citizens because the aim is not to harm them," said Fromer. "The requests filed with the embassies are all being brought into consideration, and sometimes we provide service even during the strike, out of a humanitarian approach and an attempt to minimize suffering. The Finance Ministry is now the one responsible for the suffering of the citizens."
The Finance Ministry responded to the affair: "The Finance Ministry's workers' union is leading it campaign at the expense of the citizens of this country, and is making cynical use of their distress in order to get a pay raise. Even though the Finance Ministry had presented solution to all the issues that were raised by workers, the Finance Ministry's union decided to abandon the mediation process. We call again upon the union to stop the sanctions and return to the negotiations table."