Middle East

Israeli diplomats in 'jeans and sandals' wage protest

Man in jeans and sandals
Image caption The new dress code for striking Israeli diplomats

Israeli diplomats have started wearing jeans and sandals to work as part of a labour dispute over pay conditions, foreign ministry officials have said.

Diplomatic employees are demanding wages on par with their colleagues at the defence and intelligence agencies.

The strike could disrupt PM Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming trip to the US.

The workers' pay committee has urged employees at Israel's Washington embassy not to make arrangements for his visit in July, local reports say.

According to the committee, foreign ministry employees are paid half of what the defence ministry staff and members of the intelligence community who serve abroad receive, even though they do the same amount of work.

Dressing down

The dispute - now entering its sixth month - is becoming increasingly public.

Several employees of the foreign ministry have abandoned the normal suit-and-tie dress code, and were coming to work in jeans and sandals, an official told the BBC on condition of anonymity.

The partial strike has also extended to the foreign ministry's visitors' department, which is in charge of rolling out the red carpet for foreign dignitaries, the official said.

On Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was forced to welcome visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov without the customary ceremony because no-one had organised one, the AFP news agency reports.

Mr Lavrov is due to meet top Israeli officials in Jerusalem before travelling to Ramallah for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the last day of his two-day visit.

According to the workers' pay committee, foreign ministry employees are paid half of what the defence ministry staff and members of the intelligence community who serve abroad receive, even though they do the same amount of work.

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