Compliance with the AIIC-United Nations Agreement

The AIIC-UN Negotiating Delegation reports (Dec. 2014)

The full Negotiating Delegation held a meeting in Geneva on 9 November 2014

Andrew Brookes as Coordinator, Claudia Bishopp, Jacques Coly, Roxanna Dazin, Nerio Guerrero, Isabelle Marbot, Phil Smith). This update is based on the issues discussed.

Training days 7-8 November 2014

A well-organized and detailed training session on negotiating techniques was held over two days, in preparation for a possible mid-term review and future negotiations.Instructors from the Swiss trade unions provided the training that covered theory of negotiation and practical role-play. The delegation has every intention of continuing this specialist training.

Thanks to Benoît Kremer for organizing the event.

Compliance with the Agreement

This is a recurrent item on the Neg Del’s agenda; we have received complaints regarding breaches of the Agreement since our last meeting and followed them up. The Delegation coordinator has systematically addressed reminders to the non-compliant organizations of their commitments under the Agreement. However, we cannot be certain that the message reaches the recruiting officers.

We have made clear our concerns to the CEB about poor compliance and shall do so again and ask that instructions are again sent to decentralized offices, as was done after the signing of the Agreement in March 2014.We understand the problem is due in some cases to ignorance of the Agreement and in other cases to willful disingenuousness.

Several recent cases of non-compliance have shown that we must all be increasingly vigilant when accepting an offer.The Agreement should obviate the need to do so, but events indicate that we do at times have to be wary.

  • There was an outrageous breach of the Agreement regarding workload at a WHO/AFRO meeting in Pretoria. The organization grossly under-recruited given the actual number and duration of sessions. The interpreters were left to negotiate the final schedule with the meeting principals on site, without support from the office in Harare. Emergency was invoked to stretch the colleagues' flexibility to unacceptable limits. They are now seeking appropriate compensation.
  • In October the ITU held its Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Korea. The contractual conditions were only made clear on site or just before the interpreters left home. The ITU put its own spin on the travel conditions so that interpreters who spent two days travelling both to and from the conference received only 50% of the fee, although the Agreement makes it clear that a full day’s travel is compensated with a full day’s pay. As far as we can establish the ITU’s chief interpreter attended the negotiations when the parties agreed that a full day of travel would be compensated at a full day’s pay; as far as we know he raised no objection at the time. This matter is in the hands of the DPU.

We need to consider the lessons to be drawn from such breaches of the spirit and letter of the Agreement

  • We emphasize that the Neg Del cannot deal with emergency situations. Its task is to tackle issues regarding the interpretation of the Agreement and to think strategically about the long term with a view to negotiating the next Agreement. Professional delegations are usually best placed to intervene on matters of non-compliance, as the DPU did in the ITU case. However, the day-to-day upholding of the Agreement lies with the individual interpreter. And the Neg Del’s bargaining power at the next round depends to a great extent on each individual’s resolve.
  • Where there is no professional delegation at hand, we would strongly advise colleagues to set up a network for rapid consultation in the event of a non-compliant offer.
  • It is not up to the interpreters to remedy the bad planning by managers or meeting secretaries by flouting the Agreement. The organizations know full well how many sessions we work per day or per week and can plan accordingly. We are of course willing to help in unforeseen circumstances, but cannot be expected to cover the managerial shortcomings of others. The rights we derive from the Agreement are as important the obligations and we must not betray our professional ethics because of moral pressure.
  • We need to network. The Busan case, with more than 70 colleagues recruited, and long distance travel involved, teaches us two things: a) we must request full disclosure of the terms and conditions before accepting an offer, and recognize that we cannot take things for granted as we once did; and b) there is strength in numbers, and we must use it by working as a group to obtain compliant conditions.
  • The travel conditions are subject to different interpretations because the relevant part of the Agreement uses ambiguous terminology. We are aware of the need for precision. This issue will be the main focus of our mid-term review.

Red tape

Medical formalities :

Some colleagues have complained that the medical certificate required for recruitment by some organizations is unreasonable and intrusive.


In some organizations payments take an inordinate amount of time; this is always blamed on the financial software. It appears that the software has not been programmed to manage the far-flung and fast-moving nature of our assignments.

The Neg Del is following up on both of these matters.

Mid-term review

The Neg Del has requested a mid-term review of the current Agreement; we have suggested to the UN that it be held in the second half of July 2015. We are awaiting their reply and shall keep you posted.


We have just received information that the UN in Nairobi is organizing a tender for interpreting services for the Mediterranean Action Programme based in Athens.The work is clearly a mandated activity and the agency (UNEP) is a party to the Agreement. We have written to UNON asking them to discontinue the tender. Thank you to the many colleagues who brought this to our notice.

Please note

We must all be aware that a tender is a procedure which deprives us of our status as "short-term staff" provided for in the Agreement (through which we have insurance, tax exemption and other benefits) because it turns us into consultants or sub-contractors. Furthermore a tender is unconscionable because AIIC interpreters are not supposed to bid for a UN mandated activity. Any bidder (often a language agency) arguing that there is only a slight negative variance between their offer and the rates set in the Agreement is conveniently forgetting that preferential UN rates are just one part of an interconnected package.

And finally…

Enjoy the approaching festive season.

Recommended citation format:
AIIC. "Compliance with the AIIC-United Nations Agreement". December 10, 2014. Accessed July 3, 2020. <>.

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