ICSC summer session: Update on the 7,7 percent pay cut

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AllŽe des drapeaux of the United Nations in Geneva. 9 April 2015. UN Photo / Jean-Marc FerrŽ

The International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) summer session took place in Vienna last month, where UN Staff Unions, senior management and expert statisticians participated to ask that the ICSC reconsider the 7,7 percent pay cut.

A series of staff meetings and campaigns preceded the session, at which inconsistencies were pointed out in the ICSC’s data and led many Geneva-based organizations to refuse to implement the pay cut as well as express strong support for staff.

The ICSC’s decision, made in late March in New York, would require the pay cut of a month a year salary to be implemented in May for newly arriving staff in Geneva, and from August for existing staff.

The Human Resources Network (HRN) expert statisticians raised questions, as in this paper, with regards to the ICSC’s calculations and application of the methodology. CCISUA, together with Geneva-based staff unions and management, asked that the ICSC:

  • Reintroduce the gap closure method;
  • Freeze implementation for all duty stations including Geneva, Rome and Madrid;
  • Review the calculations and methodology.

 

 

Consideration of the issue took place over four days. The ICSC’s final decision was to:

  • Reaffirm its calculations (despite the concerns raised by the expert statisticians) for all of the HQ duty stations surveyed in October 2016;
  • Reintroduce a gap closure measure (mitigation buffer) of 3 percent on top of the new pay index, thus reducing the original net 7.7 percent cut by 2.7 percent;
  • Implement the change from August 2017 instead of May 2017 for new staff;
  • Introduce a further delay in implementation for existing staff, making the new effective implementation date February 2018;
  • Conduct a review of post adjustment methodology for the future.

 

 

CCISUA raised as a serious concern the situation of staff who had arrived in May 2017 and have already had their pay cut. We are asking management to clarify whether the staff can be refunded retroactively, as well as, whether they would be reclassified as existing staff, having arrived before the revised implementation date of August.

For staff arriving as of August, we remain concerned that an administratively cumbersome and socially unfair two-track system will be introduced.
As to the delay until February 2018 for existing staff, this was designed to allow possible increases in the pay index between now and then, thus further reducing the cut by adjusting for:

 

  • A likely pay increase for US federal civil servants, against whom the pay in Geneva is benchmarked, of 1.9 percent, as announced by the US government, as well as additional locality pay;
  • Inflation in New York that would reduce the supposed gap between purchasing power of Geneva and New York.

 

Based on this, it is estimated that the cut could be in the range of 1 to 2 percent. However, the nature of the ICSC’s decision, which is subject to the variables mentioned above, means this is only an estimate and should not constitute the basis for staff’s budget planning.

 
In sum:

  • The precise size of the cut is not known and, as it stands, the organizations subscribe to a system that allows the pay of staff worldwide to be cut on the basis of untested calculations, and, absurdly, by the level of inflation in New York.
  • The ICSC did not decide to review its calculations despite the many concerns raised by the management’s statisticians about possible errors and ICSC’s findings that have been shown to lack robustness.  The review conducted by the ICSC did not address the root cause of the problem, the methodology nor the ICSC’s way of applying it, which undermines the technical credibility of a body that sets staff pay.
  • The “no pay cut” campaign, which has included townhalls, rallies, demonstrations, a work stoppage and a petition with almost ten thousand signatories, has shown the strength and unity of staff in Geneva and around the world, benefiting staff in other duty stations facing similar challenges. Management has also played an important role in negotiations with the ICSC and consistently argued that they have a duty of care to staff and a managerial responsibility to implement decisions based on evidence. Staff and management in Geneva have thus maintained a common position and a united front, which we hope will continue.

 

We are continuing the analysis of the ICSC’s proposal, including the legal aspect, and preparing our response. We must also look at the larger issue of how we can put in place a more robust system for setting pay that gives greater weight to staff concerns.


Media coverage:

 

L’ONU rogne le salaire de ses employés à Genève | Bilan

 

Genève : les fonctionnaires de l’ONU vont (un peu) se serrer la ceinture | Le Point International