Report of the UN Negotiating Delegation, September 2013

As the holiday season fades into fond memory, the ND thought it would be a good idea to update you on what is happening in the sector.




The Negotiating Delegation (ND) elected in July 2012 has conducted all its business by email, apart from one meeting (in Geneva) on 16-17 March 2013: a report of this meeting was posted on the AIIC website.

The ND will meet again 9-10 November 2013.

The Agreement


A World Sectoral meeting approved the draft UNCEB/AIIC Agreement (495 in favour; 107 against).


CEB Secretary R. Lalli sent the (UN-edited) summary record of the December 2011 negotiations to AIIC and UN organisations.


AIIC sent its letter of ratification to R. Lalli, including a number of comments and suggested corrections of the Agreement and summary record.


F. Baumann, Assistant Secretary-General for Conference Management, replied, via R. Lalli, that "AIIC sought to impose its own position in a unilateral and procedurally unacceptable manner”; “no further qualifications or modifications would now be accepted"; "AIIC was entering a universal reservation"; "summary records had no bearing on ratification or acceptance of the Agreement, nor did they serve as a reference for the Agreement's interpretation".  The AIIC President did not receive this message until 18.08.2012.


The AIIC President wrote to F. Baumann to say that AIIC would not withdraw its footnotes.


F.Baumann wrote to propose that "all parties" move their reservations and footnotes to an annex. (Both the UN and UNESCO had entered reservations).


The AIIC President shared the contents of a legal opinion obtained from Me J.-D. Sicault, largely devoted to the legal status of interpreters on contract to an organisation over an unpaid weekend.


The AIIC President wrote to F. Baumann, offering to withdraw AIIC's footnotes, on condition that the UN and UNESCO withdraw theirs too.


R. Lalli wrote to the AIIC President asking her to sign the Agreement


The new text received from the UN maintained the UN footnote, albeit in an annex rather than in the Agreement itself. UNESCO withdrew its reservation on para. 8(4) but maintained its reservations on para. 31(c) and annex A, para. 28.


Claudia Groothaert (DPU Geneva and member of the former ND) reported that a satisfactory understanding had been reached with the ILO Chief Interpreter concerning the contract status of an interpreter for a "non-worked day".


ILO proposed a solution for insurance on a "non-worked day", costing each interpreter CHF3.00 per day.


The AIIC President wrote to R. Lalli, questioning the UN footnote, the UNESCO reservations and the omission in the lists of parties of certain specialized agencies and their regional offices (SAs and ROs).


The AIIC President wrote again to R. Lalli, asking for a reply and noting that violations of the Agreement were proliferating.


R.Lalli transmitted a "final" copy to the AIIC President, noting that the UN maintained its footnote in the annex; that a UNESCO footnote had been deleted; and that WTO had been added to the list of signatories.


UNWTO (World Tourism Organization) signed up to the Agreement.


The AIIC President wrote to J.-J. Graisse, Under-Secretary-General for Conference Management (i.e. Mr Baumann's line manager), saying that the UN footnote (unilaterally inserted without negotiation) was not acceptable. She offered to visit New York to discuss the matter.


F. Baumann replied, on behalf of J.-J. Graisse, stating that there would be "no modifications" of the Agreement; "Staff Rules were binding"; "a mid-term review was expected in 2015".


The AIIC President wrote to ask on which Staff Rule the footnote was based and repeated her offer to visit New York.


The UN Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), New York, wrote to say the issues touched on "internal administrative law" and suggested a phone call between OLA and AIIC.


The AIIC President agreed to the suggestion of a phone call, asking for a written brief in advance, including a reference to the relevant Staff Rule.


The phone call was scheduled for 28 February.


UNCEB submitted an "up-to-date" text, now including IFAD as a party.


The phone call was held between Jay Pozenel and Amy Wood (OLA) and Linda Fitchett (AIIC) (in Geneva, accompanied by Andrew Brookes and Phil Smith). No brief was provided in advance. No reference to the relevant Staff Rule was provided. OLA seemed surprisingly unprepared (not aware that several different versions of the Agreement were circulating; they also seemed to think that the Federal Trade Commission ruling had some bearing on our relationship with the UN, despite its being an issue resolved decades ago. OLA promised to provide chapter and verse on the related Staff Rule, and details of when this matter was discussed in the negotiations, "within a week".


A. Brookes met the President of AITC (translators) and discussed their new Agreement, in which they HAD moved from a 60-day to a 31-day threshold for monthly rates.


A long-standing member of AIIC, based in Montreal, resigned in apparent protest at the monthly rate (at UNNY) and "AIIC's lack of transparency" in this regard.


The AIIC President reported on a meeting with J.-J. Graisse and F. Baumann at an event they all attended in Shanghai. Both again repeated that regarding the 31-day rule their “hands were tied”.


The AIIC President wrote to J.-J. Graisse, noting that nothing further had been heard from OLA. She attached a text of the Agreement, having deleted footnotes and reservations, and invited the UN to sign.


J. Pozenel replied to say that OLA was "finalizing its correspondence to explain the legal position".


Claudia Bishopp visited Mr Gettu, the new Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs in New York, i.e. Mr Graisse’s successor. He seemed interested in finding out more about how the interpreting service worked, but was non-committal about our current difficulties.


The AIIC President wrote to Mr Gettu to congratulate him on his new appointment, to stress the long standing partnership between the UN and AIIC and to seek his support in resolving the current deadlock

In a nutshell the Agreement remains unsigned because the UN insists on inclusion of a footnote in the Annex which stipulates that anyone working for more than 31 days must be on a monthly contract; the arrangement until now has been that the monthly contract was triggered at 60 days. The UN has insisted they are bound by the Staff Rules but have so far not been able to tell us which Rule.


Monitoring compliance with the Agreement has been the major challenge facing the ND. Compliance is the responsibility of the Professional Delegation in those regions that have one. Most of the cases reported below occurred in Africa and Latin America.


An ND member reported calls for quotation for interpretation services by Regional Offices (ROs) including FAO/Accra and UNDP/Abuja and Niamey.


Two Paris PD members reported widespread abuse of working conditions by UNESCO at a meeting held in St. Petersburg.


An AIIC member reported consistent abuse of conditions, including hours of work and language classifications, by ECLAC/Santiago. A further report was provided on 15.10.2012. The ND wrote to ECLAC on 01.12.2012. A partial response was received on 03.12.2012.


An AIIC member based in Addis Ababa reported numerous violations in the region by UNESCO, UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA. He noted that the African membership was promoting initiatives entitled "Get to know the Agreement" and "How to recruit interpreters for UN conferences".


An AIIC member reported calls for quotes by WHO/Brazzaville and Pretoria.


An AIIC member reported calls for quotes by FAO/Santiago.


An AIIC member asked the ND about restricted-team conditions offered by ITU for a meeting in Nairobi. The ND advised that the conditions were abusive.


An AIIC member reported that WHO-AFRO/Addis Ababa systematically ignored AIIC rules on workload and manning strength.


An AIIC member reported concerns at systematic meeting-time overruns at ITU/Geneva.


An AIIC member reported that UNEP/Panama had rejected UNCEB/AIIC Agreement rates for a meeting held in the Dominican Republic and hired cheaper service-providers.


An AIIC member reported that WHO had called for quotes in connection with a meeting in Lusaka. The ND wrote to the local WHO recruiter on 01.12.2012. The recruiter replied on 21.12.2012 to say that the meeting had been organized and sponsored by USAID. Further messages from the ND concerning systematic abuses by WHO-AFRO, copied to the WHO Chief Interpreter, Geneva, on 04.02.2013 and 04.06.2013, went unanswered. A.Brookes spoke personally on the subject to the WHO Chief Interpreter on 04.06.2013.


Two AIIC members reported abuse of working conditions by PAHO/Guatemala, UNDP and ICAO in the Latin American region. N. Guerrero (ND) visited one of the members and discussed the situation on 05.12.2012. He also visited colleagues in Peru and Mexico following reports of non-compliance.


An AIIC member reported that UNODC/Buenos Aires had called for tenders. When challenged, UNODC/Buenos Aires said it had "not heard of the Agreement".


An AIIC member reported that UNWOMEN had called for quotes for a meeting in Addis Ababa. The ND wrote to UNWOMEN on 01.02.2013. UNWOMEN responded on 13.02.2013 to say that, since they were not specifically listed in the Agreement, they were not bound by it. The ND replied that UNWOMEN's activities were established by UN resolutions and, as such, were unmistakably "mandated activities". No further response was received.


AIIC members reported that WHO-AFRO/South Africa had called for quotes for a meeting.


An AIIC member wrote to the AIIC President to say that ROs in Latin America (including UNEP, FAO, UNESCO, UNICEF and ICAO) consistently ignored the rules on working conditions.


An AIIC member reported calls for quotes by WFP/Senegal.


A. Brookes wrote to P. Espinosa (Chief Interpreter, UNON), following a discussion in person, detailing sloppy administrative practices (to the extent of endangering the conduct of the meeting) in making arrangements for freelance services at a UNEP meeting in Nairobi. P. Espinosa responded positively to these comments.


An AIIC member reported that UNDP/South Africa had contracted interpretation services on the basis of a call for quotes.


An AIIC member reported calls for quotes by ILO, UNDP and UNHCR in Dakar.

19.03.2013 The ND wrote to UNCEB following complaints that organizations in Montreal (ICAO and the Montreal Protocol) were mistakenly applying a USD rate instead of the new official Canadian dollar rate. The problem was caused by a confusing instruction from UNCEB, which was open to various interpretations. The ND wrote on this subject again on 19.04.2013. A message from an AIIC member in Montreal on 30.04.2013 complained that AIIC was "not proactive enough". As a result of the action taken by the Neg Del the CEB issued a new memo without the wording that had caused the confusion.


An AIIC member working regularly at ICJ asked the ND about criteria for restricted-team rates. The ND consulted and then advised that restricted-team rates should be applied as an exception rather than as a rule.


The ND wrote to the FAO Chief Interpreter, Rome, concerning calls for quotes by FAO/Dakar. The message was acknowledged on 03.05.2013. A further reminder was sent on 24.05.2013.


The ND wrote to the UNOV Chief Interpreter, Vienna, concerning a call for quotes by UNODC/Dakar. The UNOV Chief Interpreter intervened on our behalf to advise the UNODC regional office of its obligations under the Agreement.


AIIC members in Rome complained to the FAO Chief Interpreter about that organization's "preferred hotel policy" (PHP). The Chief Interpreter replied in writing. The Italy sub-sector adopted a resolution on this matter on 19.06.2013.


An AIIC member reported that UNDP/Bogotá had hired interpreters at lower-than-Agreement rates.

Other matters

Interpretation of the Agreement:

1. In January 2013, there was lengthy discussion as to whether, for example, a Montreal-based interpreter hired to work in New York should be paid the USA or the World rate. It was eventually concluded that it should be the World rate (and that this was clearly the intention of the negotiators), but the actual wording could be interpreted to mean exactly the opposite (i.e. that the non-local gets the USA rate).

2. The wording of the Agreement on travel days is extremely vague. There have been many enquiries in the course of the year, and each organization has applied its own interpretation. Recently, DPU/Geneva and the ILO have together produced a very reasonable set of criteria, which have already won support from some other organizations.


Travel days are to be remunerated at the rate of 100% if:

  • The outbound flight leaves before 12pm (noon)
  • The inbound (return) flight lands after 2pm
  • Travel time exceeds 4 hours, as a regular office day for officials lasts for about 8 hours ; if more than half of it  is used for travel, remuneration should  be 100%.

NB : The relevant Agreement text is unclear and requires further definition. It was based on the UN’s claim during the negotiations that all travel days are remunerated at 100%, with the exceptions of very short travel times - defined as "short hops".

The above criteria were devised and are used by ILO because there are no specific rules about remuneration during travel days in that organization’s staff rules for short-term officials.

WTO recently welcomed the drafting of these criteria because of the lack of clarity of the relevant Agreement text.

WIPO has recently paid 100% remuneration for long-haul flights with durations of about 6 to 8 hours but has not been approached yet to provide the specifics of their criteria.

UNFCCC (Climate Change Convention)

UNFCCC wrote to the ND in August 2012 asking whether AIIC "would be prepared to quote for services" in the form of a "framework agreement". (This organization has received services for all its meetings, publications, etc., for at least the last ten years from UN/Geneva (UNOG) but has often sought to go it alone). The ND replied that AIIC did not enter into framework agreements and that UNFCCC was in any case bound by the UNCEB/AIIC Agreement. It transpired that UNFCCC was upset at the cost of a meeting to be held in Belize in October 2012, as quoted by UNOG. The ND advised UNFCCC to seek AIIC "consultant interpreters" in the region. UNFCCC did so and subsequently expressed satisfaction with the result.

Age limits

1. The Italy sub-sector adopted a resolution on 20 March 2013 to protest against FAO's decision not to hire anyone over the age of 70. A waiver was obtained to this rule until April 2014.

2. A letter was addressed to the AIIC President by an AIIC member (received 28.06.2013) concerning age limits imposed by UNESCO. There are recent indications that constructive talks will be held with management in September 2013.


In a Resolution passed on 20 June 2013, interpreters working for the FAO called on the AIIC President and the Negotiating Delegation to secure an authoritative legal opinion from the ICSC[1] Secretariat regarding the legality of the "Preferred Hotel Programme" (introduced by the FAO in 2012). Andrew Brookes sent a letter to the ICSC President on 26 July 2013 and, apart from an acknowledgement, has received no substantive response. The Italy sub-sector is waiting for an official reply from the FAO to the resolution and will meet again mid-October.

And finally

The ND is acutely aware that this is an odd situation. AIIC does not want to sign the Agreement with the footnote about monthly contracts; the UN insists the provision is required by its Staff Rule, but has consistently failed to send a copy of the relevant rule or demonstrate it was discussed at the negotiations. The Office of Legal Affairs, despite promising a speedy response, has also not told us what the legal base is.

Nevertheless the Agreement is in force and being applied.

[1] The International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) is an independent expert body established by the United Nations General Assembly. Its mandate is to regulate and coordinate the conditions of service of staff in the United Nations common system (see below), while promoting and maintaining high standards in the international civil service.

Recommended citation format:
United Nations Negotiating Delegation. "Report of the UN Negotiating Delegation, September 2013". September 30, 2013. Accessed May 25, 2020. <>.

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Nyssa Fiona GREGORY


The UNESCO Professional Delegation informed the ND on 6 September that the age discrimination issue at UNESCO had been resolved. I am mystified why this has not been reflected in the report while undue prominence is given to an isolated complaint from one member who had apparently disregarded, or was ignorant of, the progress already made on the issue by the time of his letter - prior to its comprehensive resolution a month ago. Nyssa Fiona GREGORY, head of the UNESCO Professional Delegation

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