In spite of the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNOG Staff coordinating Council (SCC) has worked tirelessly to assist staff.
In March, the Organization was hit with a major liquidity crisis affecting its regular budget, which coincided with the lockdown. In order to reassure staff, the Council organized in May, its first ever virtual town hall to listen to staff concerns.
It subsequently contacted the Office of the Controller and asked him to address the staff on the financial crisis. As a result, a global townhall took place to explain the situation and to reassure staff that they would be paid in full in the upcoming months.
Equal pay campaign
The UNDT issued its judgement in June 2020 declaring the pay cut introduced in 2018 legal. During a townhall, especially dedicated to this issue, staff made it clear that they wanted the Council to continue the fight. An appeal was filed before the United Nations Appeals Tribunal.
In the meantime, in view of the radical changes in the patterns of consumption due to the pandemic, the Council has adamantly argued against conducting a new cost-of-living survey in 2021, as it would adversely impact salaries for the next five years, and CCISUA to which the Council belongs has conveyed this position to the ICSC.
Continuing and fixed-term contracts
The last exercise of granting continuing contracts took place. The Council asked Management to conduct the exercise. However, Management informed staff that there was no available slot for professional staff and that there was over 500 slots for general service staff to be distributed at the global level.
The Council raised its concerns regarding the ways used to calculate the number of candidates eligible for continuing contracts. As a result, the negative balance for professional staff was reduced.
For fixed-term contracts, departments have been extending contracts for different lengths. We requested Management to review the practices in different departments, this showed that there were discrepancies between departments. As a result, Management informed us that contracts would be extended for up to two years, which goes against the current policy that allows extension for up to 5 years.
The Council strongly opposed this decision and will keep pressure on Management to abide to the relevant policy.
Future of work
The Council was the first among the staff unions to raise alarms on a report prepared by Management on the Future of the United Nations System Workforce. The report recommends a shift towards ‘a more agile model of contractual modality’, which means more precarious contracts. The Council is working on a campaign to oppose these attempts to undermine the civil service function.
The decision by OCHA to move Geneva-based posts to Istanbul and the Hague, was taken with no consultation with the Council and without consideration to the adverse impact on staff and subsequent job losses.
We have written to the Under-Secretary-General of OCHA asking him to review his decision. His answer was dismissive and failed to address our concerns. This decision means the end of the Geneva office at the long run.
The Council has been proactively promoting good governance in the Pension Board, through one of its members who is an elected Participant Representative.
These Representatives have raised their concerns to the General Assembly on attempts to remove the fund from the legal jurisdiction of the UN Appeals Tribunal, non-compliance with the General Assembly resolutions, the removal from Geneva of the EMEA office, proposals of lending the Fund securities in violation of its own rules to name just a few
Racism in the workplace
The Council realised the urgent need to address the issue of racism in the workplace and conducted a survey to understand better the problem in Geneva. We are now in the process of establishing a working group with Management to find ways of addressing the issues raised in the answers of staff to the survey.
With the outbreak of the pandemic, the Staff Council set up a Facebook account “Geneva Community” to provide a forum for staff and others in the community to exchange and assist each other.
The Council conducted a survey to analyse the impact of the pandemic on staff welfare. The results were brought to the attention of Management to take the necessary measures. Another survey was conducted on the move to the new H Building which features open space and hotdesking.
Participants indicated that they weren’t willing to move to the H building under the current circumstances but their views are ignored.
The Council organized several activities at the UN Beach during the summer, and the latest being the opening of the Beach for the first time ever during the winter months, having transformed it into a cosy chalet style.
All in all, this has been an exceptionally busy year, but what keeps us active and motivated is the strong support of staff (our town halls have had record attendances, with more than 800 staff connecting to them) and we look forward to keeping up the fight to protect all of you in 2021.