The Staff Union, represented by President, Fraser McIlwraith and Vice-President, Stefanie Kuefner, discussed and negotiated on a broad range of issues on your behalf and would like to bring some of these to your attention.
The Staff-Management Committee (SMC) was established by the Secretary-General for the purpose of advising him or her on policies related to human resources and general questions of staff welfare. The Committee is a global joint staff-management body that ensures the effective participation of staff in identifying, examining and resolving Secretariat-wide issues relating to staff welfare, including conditions of work, general conditions of life and other human resources policies. The SMC VI session in NY HQ was held from 26 April to 3 May 2017 for 8 consecutive days.
1. Parental leave: Previously, during SMC V, last year, we proposed changes to the current ST/AI/2005/2 on parental leave to remove the requirement for expectant mothers to go on maternity leave six weeks prior to their due date should they fall sick but recover quickly. Management agreed to this change.
There is a steady push for further reform of the current maternity and paternity leave rules towards a system of gender parity. The idea is to modernize and widen the rules to cater to a broader range of families such as parents of adopted children, surrogate parenting or same-sex couples. A working group was set up and a draft policy will be circulated soon.
2. Access to Inspira after separation: Access to Inspira is linked to our UN Index number. Roster memberships or current applications that are linked to this account are lost and cannot be transferred to a different account. Management will raise this issue with IT and resolve the matter. We will follow-up in due course to ensure that this is done.
3. Rebuttals in Inspira: When staff members receive a negative ePerformance rating which is successfully challenged following a rebuttal process, the negative rating in Inspira does not change. Management agreed to work with IT to fix Inspira as requested and include a functionality which allows ratings to be changed in Inspira following a recommendation of a rebuttal panel to change the rating from the 2015/16 performance cycle onwards.
4. SG’s briefing note on Gender Parity: The SG presented his gender policy in which he commits to reach gender parity at the senior leadership level by 2021 and parity across the UN ‘well before 2030’. A Gender Parity Task Force was set up to establish a clear roadmap to achieve these targets. Areas affected include, ‘leadership and accountability’, ‘recruitment and selection’, ‘the elimination of unconscious bias across the UN’, ‘strengthening of flexible work arrangements’. Temporary ‘special measures’ (affirmative action in place in ST/AI/1999/9) will be used to yield real results. These include the mandatory recommendation and selection of female candidates until such time as annual targets for gender parity at the relevant level of a given department/office are reached.
Staff Unions raised additional concerns surrounding the topic of careers for women and advocated for equal pay, changes to parental leave policies, better childcare, more flexible working arrangements, a review of the current mobility policy on the career of women, and mandatory training for hiring managers on unconscious bias. Management confirmed that the SG’s Senior Advisor on Policy has fully taken on board the concerns and that these will be incorporated in the UN Gender Parity Strategy going forward.
5. AOJ: We (Stefanie and Fraser) had an offline discussion with the new head of the Office of Staff Legal Assistance (OSLA) to discuss issues related to on-going appeals, including appeals to the changes in Professional staffs’ salary and benefits, as well as the permanent appointments litigation.
6. Pension Fund delays: The SMC asked the UNJSPF to provide it with a written statement setting out the timetable for closing the gap between the current position and the target benchmark of paying 100% of the beneficiaries within 30 days. SMC agreed that management and staff were to send a joint note to the pension fund with a proposal on how to advance payments to beneficiaries could be made even if they had not yet fully provided the necessary documentation. We also intervened directly on behalf of ICTY/MICT (former) staff to have some of their issues dealt with by the pension fund.
7. Implementation of ICSC Remuneration Package: Management updated staff on the current status of the implementation of the new package which proceeds according to plan. The SG informed staff that he personally went to the ICSC to ask for a review of the situation of staff with non-dependant spouse given this category suffered most losses. Management sought ICSC’s views on any leeway with regard to boarding assistance for children in tertiary education whose parents were at Headquarters duty stations, which includes The Hague, and who temporarily changed duty stations, however the reply received this week was rather negative and ICSC does not feel that any further flexibility is possible. In order to change the current transitional and flexibility provisions a new proposed transitional measure would have to be reviewed by the ICSC and eventually approved by the General Assembly. The SMC agreed to continue to review the implementation of the revised ICSC remuneration package.
8. Harassment policy: Staff requested a review of SGB/2008/5 on harassment and abuse of authority as the current policy is seen to no longer meet international standards. The policy lacks transparency and to be too reliant on the local administration. An overhaul of the investigation procedures is therefore needed to ensure the inclusion of representatives of both staff and management on the initial investigation panel. Training needs to be enhanced, including on-going training for panel members, etc. Management pointed out that a new investigations policy is in the works and should be available soon. A review of the harassment and abuse of authority will not be undertaken until the new investigations policy is in place.
9. GSDM (Global Service Delivery Model): Management updated staff on the current status of GSDM which is proposed to be implemented in a phased approach. In 2018-2019, human resources administration, payroll and accounts payable were proposed for consolidation into the main administrative service providers in major regions: New York, Geneva, Vienna, Entebbe, Nairobi and Bangkok. In 2020-2021, these services were proposed to be further consolidated into two shared service centres at locations yet to be determined. During this years’ SMC,
management reaffirmed its commitment to continue engaging with staff on GSDM. An ad hoc Working Group on GSDM was established which is currently working on establishing its terms of reference.
10. UN whistleblower protection policy: Staff called for a further review of the recently established SGB on whistleblower protection (ST/SGB/2017/2) and called for the option to have an external arbitrator review the decisions reached bye the Heads of the Ethics Offices to maintain credibility of the system and to ensure that the policy is on a par with the best policies in the world. The SMC agreed to establish a contact group to review the whistle blower policy, as well as mechanisms to enhance the protection against sexual abuse and authority and how to address the culture of fear in the organizations.
In this excerpt we wanted to bring to your attention issues that we believe will have the most effect on the functioning of our organizations in The Hague, Arusha, etc. Other issues discussed included (i) flexible workspaces, (ii) staff safety and security, (iii) application of rest and recuperation, (iv) travel during weekends, (v) language proficiency exams, (vi) equality between UN working languages, (vii) family vs non-family duty stations, (viii) medical insurance and insurance for dependants, (ix) transitional measures on job openings in the GS and related category, or (x) a review of the policy on the prohibition of harassment and abuse of authority. If you have any questions on the above, or want to know more about the other issues discussed, please feel free to contact Fraser or Stefanie in the Staff Union office.
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