Pay Cuts Will Largely Undermine Women. U.N. Staff Protest


15 DECEMBER 2015


The staff of the United Nations protested further attempts to cut salaries and staff while politically-appointed senior officials could be receiving increases in pay. Reportedly, around 32,000 UN staff will be affected by the first stage of the compensation review, which, according to the President of the Coordinating Committee of International staff, will include "cuts to pay and leave arrangements to up to 10 per cent of their income, after a three-year pay freeze." These cuts come at the same time as claims that the former President of the UNGA "is alleged to have received one million dollars in bribes to spend on Rolexes, massages and a private basketball court."

According to Richards, these pay cuts will impact single mothers the most if the International Civil Service Commission proposals are implemented. Indeed, the package proposed will, according to New York UN Staff Union President Barbara Tavora-Jainchill, take money away from single parents and raise the income of senior UN officials, specifically Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General. Such an action would undermine the UN's role, which should be one of the strongest advocates of women's rights.

Following is a statement reproduced from the Inter Press Service:

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 9 2015 (IPS) - The UN's 60,000-strong international staff union is challenging some of the proposed cuts both on salaries and allowances which will "damage living standards, working conditions and family lives" of some 32,000 staffers "working in the world's most dangerous locations."

After a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Friday, Ian Richards, President of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA), told lPS: "We were glad to be able to raise our concerns with the Secretary-General on behalf of the 32,000 UN staff who will be affected by the first stage of the compensation review. Staff will experience cuts to pay and leave arrangements equivalent to up to 10 per cent of their income, after a three-year pay freeze."

"The Secretary-General was frank with us and said he shared many of our concerns about the review."

These, Richards said, included the impact on single parents, the majority of whom are women, who will lose the most - if the ICSC proposals are implemented (undermining the UN's role as one of the strongest advocates of women's rights).

The 15-member International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), an independent expert body, which regulates and coordinates the conditions of service of staff in the U.N. system, has already recommended the new salary structures.

But the final decision will be taken later this month by the U.N.'s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (also known as the Fifth Committee) which will begin discussions November 9.

In a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, CCISUA said: "When Pope Francis visited New York in September, you asked His Holiness to bless the staff and called us "the heart and soul" of the UN's work."

"Now you are being asked by the ICSC to accept cuts to the pay and leave arrangements for the very same 'heart and soul.'"

The letter says the ICSC proposals would: "Cut pay and allowances for sections of the professional staff in hardship stations by up to 10 per cent; make it more difficult and expensive for us to take leave to see our families and get medical check-ups; and undermine the UN's ambition for a more diverse staff with more women in diverse roles."

Additionally, the proposals "would also damage the UN's ability to move staff quickly to danger zones where we are needed to save lives; take most from single parents and parents with a working spouse; reduce the right to leave for parents whose families join them at duty stations; and make pay discrimination against single parents, mainly women, worse than it is already."

This will widen the pay and allowances gap between single parents and parents who are in couples with one income, and delay progress on the pay scale for length of service and performance, so that for the lowest grades rising through the pay scale will take 19 years instead of 10, the letter said.

Since 2000, 319 UN staffer and contractors have been killed in service, 325 injured and 164 kidnapped.

The personal risks for staff in danger zones already deter all but the most highly motivated.

"We ask: Who will work in the frontlines in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan if they do not feel valued by the UN?"

The CCISUA has said it is "in strong agreement with the UN Agency Chiefs who have submitted that the changes would negatively impact the "fitness for purpose" of the pay structure and its ability to meet your ambitions for the staff of more diversity, more women in more diverse positions, greater mobility and support for staff health and well-being, especially mental health."

Richards told IPS "We have pointed out that the changes will make it more difficult and more expensive for frontline staff to take leave to see their families and get medical check-ups, and the Secretary-General said it was important to protect leave arrangements and that adequate rest and recuperation is essential for health and wellbeing, as well as productivity."

Ban also said he was concerned to avoid any negative impact on the UN's ability to rapidly deploy staff to frontline field stations.

"We can't believe the ICSC intended its review to have negative impacts on this scale, and we think the detail of how staff will be affected has not been fully taken into account," Richards said.

"We will be asking the Fifth Committee to take a view on whether the ICSC needs to do more work on this."

The UN, he noted, needs a pay structure that supports its strategy for a highly motivated, internationally mobile staff with the necessary skills and experience, and for a more diverse staff with more women in senior roles.

"The ICSC proposals don't meet that ambition," Richards declared.