Israeli diplomats say they're going on strike until the Finance Ministry finds a solution to a dispute over low salaries and problematic pension plans.
Israeli diplomats have gone on strike worldwide, saying that the Finance Ministry has failed to resolve the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Labor Dispute, the Consulate General of Israel to the Mid-Atlantic Region announced in a March 11 press release.
"Israel's diplomats will no longer engage with foreign representatives, take care of official visits of any kind, either in Israel or overseas, issue visas or provide any consular services," the statement read.
Last year, ministry workers suspended their five month long work sanctions after agreeing with the Finance Ministry to appoint a mediator to end the crisis.
In return, the Finance Ministry agreed to withhold a planned 25 percent deduction from workers’ salaries as a result of the sanctions.
But the negotiations came to a grinding halt recently and led to the renewed strike.
"Israel's diplomatic corps was left with no other choice but to ratchet up its year-long labor dispute with the Ministry of Finance, after the latter caused the failure of a seven-month mediation process led by the former Chief Justice of the Labor Court," the press release said.
Among the complaints are "below par" pension plans and the failure of the government to increase wages to address economic inflation over the last 12 years, according to Elad Strohmayer, Deputy Consul General of Philadelphia.
This most recent hiccup for the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry means that the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia will continue on its topsy-turvy trajectory since nearly being shut down in 2013 due to financial considerations.
"The community understands the importance of the Israeli consulate here in Philadelphia, the Finance Ministry needs to understand our importance as well," Strohmayer said, referring to local advocates' efforts to keep the area consulate open.
Responding to the strike, the Finance Ministry was officially quoted by the Times of Israel as saying that it had presented the Foreign Ministry workers with a program that would “improve the conditions of the [Foreign Ministry] employees and their spouses. However, the workers insist on salary increases for the holders of the highest salaries in the ministry. We call on the employees not to thwart the mediation process and to address our proposal in a substantive way.”
Strohmayer disagreed with that statement, explaining that spouses of diplomats have a difficult time finding work since employers know they will move on to another country after a couple of years. He believed the government should provide support for spouses to hunt for jobs or arrange for financial compensation.
"I didn't take this job to become a millionaire," Strohmayer said. "But I never thought that I'd have trouble living honorably on a diplomat's salary."