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Ministry of Foreign Affairs workers staged a similar strike last summer during as part of a year-long fight for better wages and working conditions. / Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Escalating their battle over wages and working conditions, Israeli diplomats have gone on strike, effectively shutting down embassies and consulates worldwide.

The work stoppage against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs began Tuesday, said the Foreign Service Workers' Association‚??, the union representing the diplomatic corps. The date of the labor action was listed as Monday, however.

"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 union said Wednesday in an announcement. "This is just part of an extended list of organizational measures which will take effect immediately."

Exceptions are being made for Israelis whose lives are in danger and for bodies that must be returned to Israel for burial.

Notices of the work stoppage are posted on embassy and consulate websites. It's not yet clear how long the strike may last or how it may impact religious pilgrims heading to Israel next month for Passover or Easter.

The strike came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landed in Los Angeles for a three-day trip to California after meeting President Obama in Washington. His staff had to quickly take over logistics from the L.A. consulate, the Jewish Journal reported. Netanyahu met Wednesday with Gov. Jerry Brown; no word of any diplomatic meltdowns over the envoy exodus.

The strike is the second since summer and follows seven months of mediation, which was directed by a former chief justice of the Labor Court. The union blamed the Foreign Ministry and its "finance bureaucrats" for the breakdown.

"Precisely because of their deep commitment to Israel's international standing and national security, Israel's diplomats insist that their reasonable demands be met. Among them are a long-overdue adjustment of the salary to the rise in the cost of living, an end to a discriminatory tax policy, consideration of the dear price paid by 'trailing' spouses and children in terms of loss of income, career and pension, and a decent compensation for extra hours.

"It is unfortunate that the same dedicated civil servants, who receive praise wherever they are stationed in the world as representatives of Israel, are met with nothing but scorn by the Finance Ministry bureaucrats, who know little about the importance of diplomacy to national security. This is true always, but more so in a country like Israel, which is faced with an unparalleled range of challenges in the international arena."

USA TODAY has sought comment from the Israeli Embassy. The U.S. State Department would not comment because it is "an internal issue," an official said.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

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