OSLA Voluntary Supplemental Funding – Deduction From Your Paycheck
March 20, 2014
The Office of Staff Legal Assistance (OSLA) provides staff members with professional legal assistance within the system of administration of justice.
According to GA resolution 68/254 adopted on 27 December 2013 the funding will from now on be supplemented by a voluntary payroll deduction not exceeding 0.05% of a staff member’s monthly net base salary.
This shall be implemented on an experimental basis from 1 January 2014 until 31 December 2015 and staff that will not opt out will automatically take part in the scheme.
Staff Unions consistently opposed this mechanism.
Since the establishment of the internal justice system of the United Nations, funds and programmes in July 2009, we have consistently raised the issue of inequality of arms between staff and management and stressed the importance of the administration of justice for the Organization.
While management can make use of a large contingent of administrative lawyers to defend its decisions, the Office of Staff Legal Assistance (OSLA) has eight legal officers and three legal assistants to serve 75,000 staff members.
Notwithstanding the good work that the lawyers at OSLA have performed in defending staff, OSLA
has had to turn away many cases for lack of resources, often at huge expense to the staff member who has had to seek external counsel. This has denied staff their basic right for equal treatment in an organization that outwardly promotes the concepts of justice, equality and the fundamental rights of each and every person.
Up to now, the services of OSLA have been provided free of charge to staff. This has been on the basis that the UN Dispute Tribunal does not refund legal costs except in exceptional circumstances and that staff should not have to pay the price of an unfair decision made against them.
WHAT THE NEW RESOLUTION SAYS
Having considered various options proposed by the Secretary-General for the additional financing of OSLA, the General Assembly adopted resolution 68/254 and decided that staff should be charged a payroll deduction of 0.05 % of their salary. This is a voluntary scheme (staff can opt-out) introduced on a trial basis for two years. The pilot scheme is aimed to finance additional OSLA posts (2 P4 legal officers and 4 GS administrative assistants). At the end of the period, the General Assembly will review whether the funds raised justify maintaining the charge.
WHAT THE UNIONS SAY
Staff unions consistently opposed this scheme, and the Secretary-General also raised his reservation. It marks a dangerous precedent. For the first time, the General Assembly has established a body which it does not wish to fully fund and is requiring staff to make up the shortfall. Thus, staff are taxed from their salaries for additional posts that the Organization requires but for which it is not willing to pay. This runs counter to Article 17.2 of the UN Charter.
With the administrative arrangements for the voluntary scheme now in place, payroll deductions will begin in April 2014. During the trial period, staff can choose to opt out of payroll deductions. According to the resolution, colleagues who opt out during the trial period will have full access to OSLA and will not be penalised.
The staff unions of the United Nations System remain opposed to the principle of charging staff for a work related facility. Real justice cannot be achieved unless it is accessible to all and includes equality of arms. We urge the Secretary-General to work with staff unions to find other means of financing additional posts for OSLA and address the real reason for the large number of cases being brought by staff against the organization: the poor quality of decisions being taken by many of his managers. Ultimately, justice and fairness in the workplace is not only in the interest of staff but also paramount to the Organization.
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