Photo: Guy Assayag
Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem
Photo: Guy Assayag
Israeli diplomats find diplomatic end to strike
Foreign Ministry and Finance Ministry reach common ground after marathon sessions of mediated talks, strike to end by Sunday barring last-minute surprises.
Barring any last minute surprises, Foreign Ministry workers will sign a new wage agreement with the Finance Ministry by Sunday that will end the general strike in Israeli embassies and consulates across the world.



The strike has distressed scores of Israelis, including those who were stuck abroad and couldn't return home without a passport.


Representatives of the two ministries met Thursday and continued negotiations late into the night in an attempt to put to paper the agreements reached in marathon sessions mediated by (Ret.) Judge Steve Adler.


Sources from both parties sounded optimistic, though Foreign Ministry personnel said they would not rush to celebrate.


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The breakthrough came from two marathon meetings convened by Adler over the last few days with Finance representative Kobi Amsalem, his deputy Kobi Bar-Natan, and Histadrut representative Avi Nissenkorn.


On Thursday, lawyers from both parties met and argued over the language of the topics which were agreed through mediation. The discussions continued on Friday. When the agreement is signed, the nearly month-long strike will end.


Even though the Finance Ministry did not cede to all of their demands, the Foreign Ministry's employees will end the strike with dozens of millions of shekels in benefits to their name, including important items on their agenda such as financial incentives for going abroad.


Spouse support

Under the new agreement, employees will receive salary increases for additional missions abroad. Diplomats in countries that are designated as difficult missions will also receive increases in salary, as will junior diplomats – whose wages are especially low – who will receive a raise between 500 to 1,500 shekels per month.


Pensions of employees in foreign lands will enjoy a dramatic increase in pension payments, according to the unfinished document. The added payments are meant to compensate for the loss of income and the absence of a pension for the employee's spouse.


The Finance Ministry plans to aid the partners of diplomats with job placement and professional courses – much like the ministry does for spouses of Mossad agents. The diplomats will also be offered subsidized day-care for children under three.


The management of the Foreign Ministry did not leave the negotiations empty-handed. Employees must commit to refraining from union action for the next four years, and will not be allowed to strike or tamper with the working of the ministry. Diplomats will now be allowed to commit diplomats to three missions abroad – today, they are only obligated to go abroad once.


Management insisted on this concession to battle what they called the "parking phenomenon" where employees would return after one mission abroad and work their way up the administrative hierarchy.


The Finance Ministry said that, for the first time, the Foreign Ministry will have a sensible business structure that will allow management to utilize employees according to its needs.


"There are no winners and no losers here," a Finance source said on Thursday. "The agreement is balanced in favor of the workers. We accept this because the money is going to the right places."


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