Troubling times for UN staff

Employee relations suffer as representation downgraded to consultation status and rule changes imposed.

Word has reached the Negotiating Delegation of a serious breakdown in industrial relations at the UN. It is not easy to piece all the information together, but here is what we know.

Earlier this year the General Assembly instructed the Secretary General to make changes to the working of the Staff-Management Committee.[1] The Secretary General subsequently changed its powers from negotiation to consultation.[2]

The staff has many concerns about working conditions, including matters pertaining to their safety in the field. 

The General Assembly also adopted a Resolution on travel and accommodation in April 2013. (See Section VI.)

We are aware of three issues arising that could affect interpreters:

  1. For long distance travel the time spent changing planes in an intermediate airport will not be considered travelling time. 
  2. If a person travels business class they will be expected to work within four hours of arrival.
  3. Business class will be allowed as of an eleven-hour flight, the current trigger is nine hours.

We understand that when these – and other – proposals were first tabled the Staff-Management Committee said they were not acceptable. Management walked out of the negotiations and then applied the changes to the staff rules unilaterally.

Management action appears tantamount to de-recognition of the staff representatives.

These rules would apply to the UN; the agencies make their own arrangements. 

The Negotiating Delegation believes that we should not accept changes to our travelling conditions that have not been agreed by the UN staff. Moreover, we need to receive official notice of such changes that directly affect working conditions. The Agreement provides for talks between AIIC and the UN in the event of “any exceptional events or major change of circumstances in one or several of the ratifying organizations” (Article 5d). 

We are also guided by what the staff union wrote in June 2013:

“We continue to believe that a constructive dialogue between staff and management, as set out in the current framework (ST/SGB/2011/6), makes the United Nations strong especially when significant reforms are being proposed that impact staff welfare. We therefore urge management to return to the table and call for SMC to be resumed. Until that meeting is concluded, it goes without saying that none of the Secretary-General’s proposals on the agenda should be implemented.”

For general background see:

Please keep the Delegation informed of developments in your region and organizations.

Recommended citation format:
United Nations Negotiating Delegation. "Troubling times for UN staff". October 15, 2013. Accessed July 3, 2020. <>.

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