Israeli FM slams ministry staff over general strike

Photo: Israeli FM slams ministry staff over general strike / Israel

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman slammed the general strike his ministry's employees embarked on earlier this week, saying they are damaging the ministry and have lost the support of the Israeli public, Xinhua reported.

"The struggle has gone in the wrong direction," Lieberman said at a press conference on Tuesday, amid the employee's overall strike which commenced on Sunday.

The workers, who are protesting their employment conditions, halted the ministry's operations and shut down 103 Israeli missions worldwide.

The minister said that the workers' battle is waged at the expense of "helpless Israelis" who cannot receive the ministry's services.

"A battle over salaries cannot be conducted at the expense of the helpless. Some red lines cannot be crossed," Lieberman said, mentioning handicap elderly whose foreign caregivers are abroad and parents who have adopted babies overseas among those damaged by the shutdown of diplomatic services.

The general strike started on Sunday afternoon in Israel and across the Israeli missions abroad on Monday. The workers shut down all activities in the headquarters in Jerusalem, preventing access to top officials.

Both parties were summoned to meet on Tuesday evening for an emergency meeting in order to end the strike.

"I have ordered the management of the office to cut all ties to the workers' union. The employees may strike, but they cannot prevent other people from entering the premises," Lieberman said.

Regarding the employees' demands, he said that some of them are "absurd" and said he has done more for the employees' conditions than any other foreign minister in the past.

On the other hand, the workers insist that their salaries and overall conditions are not adequate to their jobs and criticized Lieberman for intervening a year after the crisis began.

"It's nice of him to be reminded of us after a year," an Israeli diplomat working in a mission overseas, who wished to remain anonymous, told Xinhua on Tuesday.

"Instead of showing us support he lashes out at us. Our wages are a joke. I made my way into diplomatic service in order to serve the state of Israel, and it's a difficult job. It's hard to defend Israel at this time, it's a very difficult job with many challenges and hardships and requirements and you end up feeling nobody cares about you and the hard work you do is unappreciated," he said.

The crisis started a year ago, when the workers announced a labor dispute, protesting their employment terms and the cut in their salaries. In the summer the dispute ended as the district labor court ordered a mediation process to take place between the ministry workers and the treasury.

However, the employees charged this month that the treasury offered to cut their salaries and did not hold on to its side of the bargain, proposing solutions that have been disqualified by them in the past.

The strike may have dire consequences for Israel's diplomacy, as it is suffering a low public image on the global stage. It has been under attacks by the international community amid its ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank, on lands it annexed in the 1967 Mideast War.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to cancel a visit to South America in April.

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