Staff protest management proposal to dilute conditions and rights

It is with great disappointment that we share with you this paper, which we brought up at the Secretary-General’s townhall last week. This document was prepared for a retreat of the High-Level Committee on Management (a gathering of the heads of management of the United Nations and specialized agencies), which took place in Turin from 14 to 15 January.


We should, perhaps, congratulate the HLCM for this paper. For the first time, it states clearly in writing what many of us had suspected senior management to believe: that despite what they may say in public, we, the staff of the United Nations are not the Organization's greatest asset. Instead, "Human resources constitute by far the greatest expense of UN system organizations" (Para. 10)

According to this paper, the most senior managers in our organizations believe that "there is an increasing mismatch between the programmes the UN system organizations are called upon to deliver, and both the skills of their staff and the tools available to manage them – with respect to recruitment, performance, dismissal, compensation, motivation, and professional development."

The paper speaks to efforts by some organizations to "move ahead – outside of the official framework – adopting business models increasingly reliant on outsourced workers, non-staff personnel, and implementing partners." In other words: using precarious workers and a disposable workforce to deliver UN outcomes on the cheap. They ask: "What is the ideal balance between younger and more mature staff, between generalists and specialists, and between internal and external sources of talent and expertise? Which and what percentage of positions should offer career potential? What and how many types of employment contracts should be utilized? Should there be term limits in regular staff contracts? And what are the appropriate levels of compensation?"

One of the most damaging proposals includes: "to move away from the existing administratively cumbersome and costly model to a modern compensation system – with simplified and streamlined administration, including lump-summing." The report speaks to "exploiting" areas where "common services" (read offshoring) could be provided, with "payroll considered by many to be low-hanging fruit among the services with potential for consolidation."

Paragraph 61 of the paper is particularly telling, as at a time when the Joint Inspection Unit is calling for improvements in the relationship between management and staff representatives, the members of the HLCM seek to reduce our participation in their deliberations. Rather, the High-Level Committee on Management would prefer to, "instead conduct dialogue with Staff through other designated mechanism(s)".

In reacting to the paper, the federations of staff unions, which represent us, have sent the attached letter to the Secretary-General, who chairs the Chief Executives Board, to which the HLCM is subsidiary.

As we have stated at previous meetings, the business models being considered for the organization, including offshoring and greater use of outsourced personnel, will be detrimental to staff. UNOG, being in a high cost location, is especially vulnerable. We will continue to do all we can, with all necessary partners, to combat and mitigate this trend.

Attached documents
Download this file (HLCMPaper.docx)HLCMPaper.docx
Download this file (SGLetterHLCM.pdf)SGLetterHLCM.pdf