THE STAFF COORDINATING COUNCIL:
AN INSIGHT FROM THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY
The United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) is the second
largest duty station in the United Nations Organization and
it comprises around 3,500 staff members. The various
agencies tackle a wide range of issues and topics such as
Human Rights, Trade and Development and the Environment.
Supervision is necessary to provide transparency and accountability that determine the way the staff are treated. In this respect the Staff Coordinating Council constitutes a body that monitors the activity and processes of staffi ng within UNOG. At the helm of the Staff Coordinating Council is Mr. Ridha Zargouni who holds the position of Executive Secretary. The role of Mr. Zargouni is to “represent the Council and to speak on behalf of it”. He follows up on the decisions that are adopted by the Council and he guarantees that they are “properly and adequately implemented”. In parallel, the Staff Coordinating Council undertakes joint efforts with other Staff Unions that necessitates Mr. Zargouni to “coordinate proposals and positions when they address external forums such as the International Civil Service Commission or the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly”. Finally, Mr. Zargouni takes care of staff complaints through an intervention “at various managerial stages to resolve issues in an informal manner”.
Recently, administrative changes have occurred within the United Nations system. Mr. Zargouni notes that “the Secretary-General has embarked on a huge change in the contractual system in the Secretariat. Decisions have already been made at the level of the Secretary-General for the fixed-term and temporary appointments. This fall, the General Assembly will decide on the continuing appointments”. Mr. Zargouni considers that “this is now the most important issue of concern to the staff”. In parallel, the work of Mr. Zargouni led him on a mission to Nairobi. There, at the SMCC, the global negotiating forum between the Council and the management, he, Mr. Ian Richards and Mr. Jean-Claude Mporamazina, the team from UNOG, negotiated along with other representatives for “the conversion of the fi xed-term contracts under the 100 series into permanent ones”. He states that the process must be monitored. The completion of this endeavour presents a challenge as Mr. Zargouni mentions that under the terms of negotiations “more than three hundred cases were registered while UNOG Administration has given a fi gure of 114 eligible candidates”. Accordingly, “these fi gures do not coincide”, so Mr. Zargouni summons the need to “stay vigilant in order to ensure that every eligible candidate is given due consideration for conversion to permanent contract”. Mr. Zargouni states that change has also appeared in the area of “staff selection system, mobility, and the implementation of the new Justice system, as of 1 July 2009”. The Council will need to be “alert to any problem which may occur” in the implementation process of those changes.
Mr. Zargouni considers that the Staff Coordinating Council is a pivotal body. It must be present at the table with the management since “the policy of boycott is simply counterproductive”. Representation is critical especially when one considers that “decisions and changes will occur whether one likes it or not”. The voice of the staff must be heard on all occasions the management decides to bring about changes. The Council raises the concerns and proposals on behalf of the staff so that managers take their interests into account. Moreover the dialogue with the management enhances “the importance and the vital role of staff representation” in the context of change and reform. Representation must be promoted according to Mr. Zargouni because “staff is the best asset of the Organization”. The management must pay heed to their concerns since dialogue helps “improve working conditions”. Through a collective effort the Organization can better “impact on change, reach better results and therefore make the best use of our resources”.
Dialogue requires a common ground, a platform where staff and management can set common objectives. The name of this platform is “the Council Socio-cultural Commission”. According to Mr. Zargouni the platform “will give an excellent opportunity to all staff members to be directly involved in the activities of the Council, enrich the proposals that can be brought to the table of negotiations with the Administration, and achieve our main objective : better working conditions from different perspectives”.
Mr. Zargouni is optimistic about the future, yet he considers that the work of the Council will continue to need to be shouldered by “a young generation of Staff Representatives”. The cornerstone of their job will be to “fi ght for the Staff rights”. The Council embodies fundamental human values such as “respect, dignity and determination” and Mr. Zargouni hopes that the same values will drive the next generation “to negotiate and improve the working conditions of the staff such as contracts, recruitment and promotions, career developments, salaries and other entitlements, and pensions”.
Finally, Mr. Zargouni aspires that one day the Council will be recognized in its own right through the presence of “Staff Representatives at the Podium of the General Assembly who deliver their offi cial statement at the Opening of each Annual General Assembly session”. Mr. Zargouni adds with a pinch of humour that “should it happen before I retire, I will certainly be a candidate”!