MONTREAL, 29 JUNE TO 10 JULY 2009
FICSA’S REPORT OF THE 69TH SESSION OF THE
INTERNATIONAL CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION (ICSC)
The mandatory age of separation
As agreed by the FICSA Council, the Federation advocated that the mandatory age of separation should be extended to 62 for all staff and that the option of extending service until age 65 should be available for all staff. FICSA considered that staff should be able to choose to extend their service beyond age 62 and that the decision should not be solely at the discretion of the executive head. An extension beyond age 62 should not however affect entitlement to the full pension at age 62.
FICSA also supported phased-retirement programmes, whereby staff are able to reduce their working time prior to retirement. This type of programme would support succession planning by enabling experienced staff to work closely with their replacements. The extension of retirement age should not be seen however as a substitute for effective succession planning.
The Commission took note of the information provided by the CEB and the HR Network. Most of the members were in agreement with increasing the mandatory age of separation to 62 for all staff and were against the discretionary clause for the executive head. The Commission requested its secretariat, in cooperation with the organizations and the Pension Fund, to prepare a comprehensive report on the possibility of changing the mandatory age of separation, taking account of its various implications in the human resources and pension areas, such as geographical distribution, rejuvenation of the workforce, career development, financial situation of the organizations, gender balance, and decided to revert to this issue at its seventy-second session in 2011.
Standards of Conduct for the International Civil Service
The Director of the UN Ethics Office gave a presentation on the Code of Ethics to the Commission. He briefed the Commission on the draft Code of Ethics which would be presented to the next session of the UN General Assembly for its approval in September 2009. He also explained that the Code of Ethics was not a replacement for the Standards of Conduct but rather was intended to complement it. In his opinion, the Code of Ethics is a short summary of the principles and values of each organization.
FICSA stated that it would like to see revisions in the following areas: strengthened whistleblower protections (for example, internal auditors from two organizations were fired for pursuing investigations); an additional factor in discrimination (prohibited on the basis of sexual orientation); staff association/union access to governing bodies; recruitment, selection and promotion on the basis of merit, which should have greater weight than geographical and gender factors in compliance with Art 101 of the Charter of the United Nations. The Commission decided to request its secretariat to work with organizations and representatives of staff federations to undertake an initial review of the Standards of Conduct to ensure that they continue to meet the needs of the organizations and to define areas that might need updating. The Commission tentatively scheduled the updating of the Standards of Conduct for 2011.
Review of separation payments
This was a long and tough discussion because several Commissioners did not favour creating a new entitlement and thus did not support the establishment of an end-of-service grant. After extensive discussions and closed meetings between the members of the Commission, a consensus was reached. The Commission agreed to implement an end-of-service grant for staff on fixed-term contracts after ten years or more of continuous service. This new entitlement will be named ‘severance payment’. The following table shows the amount of the payment:
|Completed years of service||Months of pay
(gross salary less staff assessment)
|14 and more||6|
The Commission requested the organizations
to harmonize their separation payments.
After lengthy discussion, they also
decided not to change the name of the
repatriation grant as previously suggested.
FICSA reiterated the positions that it presented
to the 68th session of the ICSC.
FICSA welcomed the establishment of an
end-of-service grant, which at present was
used by only one common system organization.
The end-of-service grant – to be
granted on the successful completion of
a contract that is then not renewed – is analogous to an unemployment benefit, which a staff member would have been entitled to had he or she been working in the home country. FICSA explained to the Commission that approximately 75% of total UN staff based on the CEB statistics of 2007 and 2008 are now on fixed-term contracts and continuing appointment cannot be given to staff due to the limited budget of each organization. The main question at issue was the number of years of continuous service to entitle a staff member to the grant.
While ICSC had proposed that the entitlement
to the end-of-service grant should
begin at nine years of continuous service,
FICSA considered nine years was too long. The grant should begin at 5 years of continuous service and the amount of the grant should be higher than the amounts proposed by ICSC.
The first reason is because after five years of satisfactory service, the expectation has been created for a continuing contract. Secondly, should the fixed-term contract not be renewed after five years of continuous service, the average recruitment time for another post in the UN system is nine months. The staff members should be entitled to a grant that at least will take them through that nine-month waiting period.
While the ICSC recommendation was not exactly what FICSA wanted, it is a welcome step in the right direction, achieved through team work between the staff representatives, the administrations and even the ICSC secretariat staff. The final decision on the severance payment belongs to the UN General Assembly. FICSA will therefore make this issue a focus of its lobbying campaign with Fifth Committee representatives.
Base/floor salary scale
The Commission recommended a 3.04% increase in the base/floor salary scale for staff in the Professional and higher categories with effect from 1 January 2010 and requested its secretariat, in cooperation with the organizations, to collect the common system staff separation statistics every five years and, on that basis, to update as necessary the formula used for estimating the financial implications relating to separation payments. If approved by the UN General Assembly, the increase will be implemented on a “no loss, no gain” basis - by taking a percentage of post adjustment and adding it to the base salary. Thus, net take-home pay will remain more or less the same.
The Commission agreed to the provisional agenda of the ACPAQ. FICSA will need to send its comments on the suggested list of items and specifications to the ICSC Secretariat by the end of July.
Review of the GS job evaluation standards
The ICSC secretariat presented a report on the activities of the Working Group. FICSA presented a Conference Room Paper on the issues and raised its concerns. At first, the Commission wanted to implement the new job evaluation standards on 1 January 2010. After lengthy discussion, they agreed with the FICSA request to postpone the implementation and to review the date at the seventieth session of the ICSC in February/March 2010. They recognized that more fine-tuning was needed and that the Working Group should complete its work before the next session. FICSA would like to extend its sincere thanks to Margaret Eldon (General Secretary, FAO/WFP-UGSS), who is a member of the ICSC working group and who joined the FICSA delegation to defend the issue and did it very well.
Review of the procedures for the classifications duty stations
The Commission decided to:
- Endorse the road map as proposed by its secretariat;
- Include Hazard Pay in the methodological review;
- Confirm that the additional boarding costs accorded to staff in designated duty stations should be part of the mobility and hardship review in 2010.
FICSA supported the review and expressed its willingness to fully participate in it.