60TH SESSION – IAEA VIENNA – 29 JANUARY TO 3 FEBRUARY 2007
Staff Representatives from more than 35 staff
associations and unions worldwide met for
over a week at the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) in Vienna to participate in the
60th Session of the FICSA Council. This year the
Council was hosted by the IAEA Staff Association
and the IAEA Administration. Mr David Waller,
Deputy Director General for Management,
opened the meeting on behalf of Dr Mohamed
ElBardei, Director-General of IAEA. FICSA was
honoured to be the guest of the 2005 Nobel
Peace Prize winner as well as to take part in
its fiftieth anniversary..
The participants came from Montevideo,
Washington, Accra, Montreal, all the major
European capitals (Paris, Copenhagen, Paris,
Berne, Madrid, Amsterdam), Geneva, the
West Bank, Turin, Brindisi, New Delhi,
Brazzaville, Abidjan, Beirut, Amman, Cairo,
Yangon and Tunis. They represented from
WHO and all its Regional Offices, SCBD,
IAEA, IOM, IFAD, CERN, ADB, ITLOS, FAO,
WPF, UNWRA, CTBTO, WMO, IMO, PAHO,
UNWTO, UPU, ITU, IARC, ILO Turin, UNESCO,
UNLB, OPCW, UNAIDS, FAPNUU,
FASPANUCI, FAFICSS and UNWG. Guests
included staff representatives from WIPO
Much time was dedicated to discussions in plenary and in the various standing committees – Legal Questions, Human Resources Management, Staff Management Relation, Social Security/Occupational Safety and Health, GS Questions, Professional Salaries and Allowances, and Conditions of Service in the Field – on topics related to the conditions of service for staff at headquarters duty stations as well as those in the field offices. Of great interest were contract reform, broadbanding and pay for performance, domestic partnerships, the upcoming review of the GS Salary Survey Methodology and the review of the Job Evaluation Standards for the General Service and related categories, hazard pay, staff security, review of the pay and benefits system (education grant, separation payments), review of the general schedule and other pay systems, separation age to 62 or 65; long-term care, staff management relations, right of association and a number of others.
It is at the FICSA Council that priorities are set by the FICSA members and that clear and distinct directives are given to the FICSA Executive Committee as to how best it can represent their interests at the high level inter-agency meetings such as the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), the HR Network, the High Level Committee on Management (HLCM), the Chief Executives Board (CEB; the Inter Agency Security Management Network (IASMN) and in the various task forces and working groups. On 3 February 2007, the last day of Council, the IAEA Staff Association invited the participants to attend one of the biggest and most important events in Vienna, their annual fundraising Ball, held a the magnificent Hofburg Palace, located in the old city, which until 1918 was inhabited by the Habsburg imperial family. The Ball was presided by members of the IAEA Staff Council and by the Director-General. This was a definite “mustdo-once-in-a-lifetime” event.
Staff representative training and
development – the role of FICSA
For the past three years, in addition to the order of business mentioned above, the focus of the Council has also been on training our new staff representatives to ensure the new generation and also to give them the necessary tools to better fulfil their mandates. Apart from the indispensable induction workshop offered to new participants entitled «Social Dialogue at the Inter Agency Level at the UN», this year FICSA proposed a set of workshops – “The appeal process”; “Basic Negotiation Skills”; “Pension issues all staff and staff representatives should know” – targeting both the old timers and the relatively new ones. There was much positive reaction, with requests from the members for FICSA to hold the workshops at their own agencies so that a larger number of staff can be trained.
Freedom of Association
The workshop entitled “Freedom of Association and the Irksome Staff Representative” was a major success. It was prompted by reports from staff representatives of incidents which would suggest an increasing climate of fear (real or perceived) – fear of retribution, fear of non renewal of contracts, fear of posts being abolished with no valid reasons, fear of forced rotation and mobility – which is having a not so negligible impact on staff representation and related activities.
Staff representatives recounted subtle exchange of words, written and oral, with supervisors, just enough to make one think twice and give one that uncomfortable feeling of victimization – “You know, your work is lagging behind”; “You know your contract is coming up for renewal”; You know your work is such that you won’t really have much time for this sort of thing”; “How will you make up your time”; “Really, we can’t spare you, your role is sooooooooo important”; “Don’t you think two years of this is enough? Let somebody else take over now.” Gentle hints on your performance appraisal about how you are not meeting all the objectives.
It cannot be denied that the environment induced by subtle threats to their job security has inevitable repercussion on the exercise of these activities.
The objective of the workshop was to give an overview of staff representation rights and their origins, to acknowledge the fear that staff representatives felt and to offer mechanisms and information to confront it. A primary aim was to increase their confidence and to encourage them to assert their statutory rights to exist.
The workshop emphasized that staff representation and good functioning staff relations require obligations and responsibilities from both sides but most importantly, the compliance by the executive heads and other officials of the fundamental principles of freedom of association as set out in the applicable ILO Conventions, notably ILO Convention 87 Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize (1948) and ILO Convention 98 Right to organize and Collective Bargaining (1949). These principles were adopted and proclaimed by the General Assembly Resolution 217 of 10 December 1948 in a document known as the «Universal Declaration of Human Rights» which resound in the Staff Rules and Regulations of each UN agency. They are confirmed in the ICSC Standards of Conduct (1954, updated 2001) and affirmed time and time again in their judgments by the UN Administrative Tribunal and the ILO Administrative Tribunal.
The following ILOAT cases are but a few which confirm the right of association and censure of its violations. If you are a staff representative reading this article or someone from the Administration side, it is worth your while to read them.
- In re Van der Ploeg, Judgment 54 (UNESCO); 1961
- In re Connolly-Battisti, Judgment 403 (FAO); 1980
- In re Di Giuliomaria, Judgment 87 (FAO);1965
- In re Garcia and Marquez, Judgment 496 (PAHO) ;1981
- In re De Padirac, 911 (UNESCO); 1987
- In re Olivares Silva, Judgment 495 (PAHO);1982
- In re Gran Olsen Judgment 1806 (WHO); 1999
FICSA is actively involved in the CEB Working Group on Staff/Management Relations which has developed a questionnaire on Staff/Management Relations to be distributed to both Administration and StaffAssociations and Unions. FICSA’s primary objective is to ensure a formal recognition and acceptance by executive heads and their administrations and managers of the right of association, their obligation to promote and cause others to promote respect for the principle of freedom of association and to create an environment where staff representatives can exercise their activities in a context of respect and in an atmosphere free of pressure and threats of any kind. This includes providing the appropriate facilities – release time, staff support, availability of training, office space and necessary equipment, recognition and partnership agreements – to the respective staff associations and unions.