The Foreign Service Journal - June 2014 - page 12

JUNE 2014
A Tale of Two Strikes:
“Warriors Abroad”
n April 2,
the yearlong labor dispute by the
Israeli Foreign Service was settled, after
an unprecedented 10-day general strike
closed the Foreign Ministry and all of
Israel’s 103 embassies, consulates and
missions abroad.
Though the 1,200-strong Foreign
the turning point came in early March
when a seven-month mediation process
led by the former Chief Justice of the
Labor Court collapsed in the face of the
Ministry of Finance’s intransigence.
In early March the diplomats began
implementing a series of measures
that included such things as no longer
engaging with foreign representatives,
no longer taking care of official visits of
and no longer issuing visas, all to “raise
awareness, both domestically and inter-
nationally, of the dire situation of Israel’s
Representatives of the Histadrut
(Israel’s organization of trade unions),
the Foreign Ministry Workers’ Commit-
tee and the Finance Ministry signed a
memorandum of understanding that is
the basis of a collective labor agreement.
The pact gives the Israeli government
“industrial peace” for several years, dur-
ing which foreign ministry employees
will be barred from going back on strike.
The ministry will also be empowered to
determine its emissaries’ second foreign
postings according to its preferences,
not just those of the emissaries.
In return, the pact creates financial
incentives for service at hardship posts
and, for the first time, ensures that dip-
lomatic salaries will be set by a transpar-
ent process that takes into account the
cost of living in foreign countries.
The agreement also compensates dip-
lomats for being on call and reimburses
them for their children’s educational
expenses, and shortens the time junior
diplomats must serve before promotion.
Finally, it upgrades the pensions of
Israeli envoys and their partners, who
will also receive job retraining
and other compensation for
damage to their careers caused
by their relocation overseas.
Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman, who has hailed the
settlement for creating “a new
work model that provides for the
professional needs of the For-
eign Ministry, and an economic
model that provides for the
needs of the workers at all pay
grades in the ministry.”
For its part, the Foreign Ministry
Workers’ Committee commented: “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. We
are pleased that the state of Israel under-
stood 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.”
Steven Alan Honley,
Contributing Editor
Strike Two:
The Canadian
Foreign Service
recent issue of
27, No. 4) features a fascinating
interview with Tim Edwards, president
of the Canadian Professional Associa-
tion of Foreign Service Officers (AFSA’s
Much of Mr. Edwards’ “Post-Mortem,”
reflecting on last year’s strike by Cana-
loudly for many AFSA members. Here are
some excerpts:
: In essence,
what was this strike
At its core,
this strike was about
equal pay for equal
work. We wanted
to eliminate salary
gaps of $3,000 to
$14,000 between
diplomats and other
federal professionals
doing the same or
similar work in Ottawa, often in neighbor-
ing offices. The latter include economists,
lawyers, policy analysts and commerce
The gaps were most acute at the FS-2
level (the second step in our four-level
ranking system), our largest cohort of
members. They first appeared in 2005
and were exacerbated by the influx of
hundreds of non-FS professionals into the
Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and
Development over the last decade to com-
pensate for chronic under-recruitment of
Foreign Service officers.
What was the point of no return
in the negotiations that prompted the
On Jan. 31, 2013, we conceded to
the Treasury Board’s two key demands.
We accepted annual increases of 1.5 per-
cent per year—well beneath inflation and
wage growth in the wider Canadian econ-
omy—and the elimination of severance
pay for a one-time salary boost of 0.75 per-
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