Wednesday, July 29, 2015

CCISUA message at UN Pension Board meeting: Bring the Fund management back in line and restore trust in staff management relations! (29 July 2015)

Mr. Chairman, Pension Board members and observers,

I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of more than 60,000 active participants of the Fund, who are represented by the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA). Included in those 60,000 are the staff of the Pension Fund working in New York and Geneva as well as staff representatives of the Fund in New York who have in the course of their daily work, been cooperating with OIOS audits on various issues including Human Resources issues, and have raised concerns with management’s proposed changes to rules and policies on fraud reporting, and financial management.

Taking into account the number of constituents I represent, it seems quite inappropriate, the heated discussion in the Board about CCISUA's right to replace its observer when needed. Such replacements have been made in the past, and given the argumentation presented by the Fund secretariat, that the nominated observer could be the CCISUA president, but not the CCISUA adviser who happens to be a  staff representative of the Fund in New York, it may be construed that this could just be  a  retaliation exercise taking place under the cover of those formal considerations.

The 60,000 active participants I represent remain deeply concerned about the dire relations between the Fund’s staff and their management, which have plunged staff morale at the Fund to an all time low and led staff to view their management with distrust, which in turn affects the service of the Pension Fund’s clients.

At the end of March this year, staff representatives shared with the appropriate bodies, including Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), allegations related to probable breaches by the Fund’s management of the United Nations rules concerning contract and human resources management. It was not easy, but the staff rules of the United Nations require every staff member to report alleged wrongdoing. As you know by now, OIOS has finally opened an investigation, which is unfortunately not finished yet, and in fact staff representatives have not been approached by OIOS investigators.

In this context, the intentions behind the desire of the Fund’s management to change the rules which are allegedly not fully respected merit to be clarified. We would like to reiterate that our Federation does not understand why the framework of United Nations regulations and rules has to be changed now, at the moment when Fund’s capitalization is at all time high, - a fact which is obviously related with the implementation of the above-mentioned regulations and rules for the past six decades.

As demonstrated during the town hall meeting which Chef de Cabinet held on this issue in the beginning of April, this concern was shared not by CCISUA membership only, but also by all the staff unions and associations represented in the Staff-Management Committee.

In this context, we would like to remind you of the article 7 b) of the Rules and Regulations of the Fund which specifies that Pension Fund staff are appointed by the Secretary-General and therefore hold United Nations Secretariat contracts. We believe that it makes sense to preserve the human resources framework which has proven its value over decades, instead of changing it. The draft Memorandum of Understanding between the Fund and OHRM which was received by only two of three Pension Fund staff representatives, was returned to management for clarification as to whether the draft was in fact agreed to by all executive heads. It was subsequently determined that it had not been agreed possibly due to certain provisions abolishing many important elements of the human resources framework, including the right of the CEO to modify administrative instructions (regulating in the United Nations, inter alia, staff selection and gifts policy).

I must stress the unacceptable way of conducting, or rather preventing the staff-management consultations by the Fund’s management. The above-mentioned draft declared to be submitted for consultations, had been marked confidential, which prevented the gathering of views of the staff and their genuine representation. We believe that this disrespect of the requirements of transparency must cease and appeal to the Board in order to make sure that the management is held accountable for this flagrant disrespect of its duties under the Chapter VIII of the Staff Rules and Regulations of the United Nations, dealing with staff-management consultations on the issues of conditions of service and staff welfare.

As the inappropriate and sometimes factually incorrect statement made at this very session under the human resources agenda item demonstrated, the unacceptable habit of “union-busting” still persists among the Fund management. I must note, however, that no document in this sense had been submitted to the Board before the session. We are grateful for the fact that union arguments concerning transparency have been heard by some representatives of the executive heads, as it can be seen from the annex to the R.24 document. In this context, I would like to stress again that retaliation against staff, and staff representative sin particular, is prohibited at the United Nations and would like to be able to count on your strong support in this.

Last year, I attracted your attention to a conflict of interest concerning a Pension Board member who had performed a consultant’s job for the Fund and I urge you to take a resolute policy action in order to avoid this situation to happen in the future.

Concerning budget, the most important item on the Board’s agenda this year, I would like to convey two important concerns. The first is related to delays in disbursements for new retirees, many for more than six months, and individual cases as far delays as two years. The second is linked with the non-filling of vacancies in the Fund and apparent mismanagement of temporary job openings, most recently with the appointment of a temporary D-1 transition manager and dismantling of the Executive Office which will cause further delays in recruitment and is already causing a reduction in the quality to service of staff.

In this context, I would underline the need to give the Fund the necessary means to fulfil its mandate, but in the same time the need to hold the management accountable for the use of them, and therefore, to introduce the pertinent performance indicators. As the implementation of enterprise resource planning systems (IPAS and Umoja) actually requires surge capacity, it is important that this transition to ERPs does not undermine the client services of the Fund. In this regard, the situation of the Executive Office in New York requires particular attention.

Before concluding, let me thank the staff of the Fund who blew the whistle and informed their unions of what was going on. Without their brave actions, neither you nor we would be any wiser about the serious management difficulties at the Fund. Unfortunately, the Fund’s management is clearly attempting to persecute these staff and announced its intention to take disciplinary action against them. I therefore ask, in the interest of ethics and good governance, that you order a stop to this.

Unfortunately, I have to say today that these concerns, already expressed in my statement at the previous, sixty-first session of the Board, are fully valid today.

On behalf of the 60,000 participants, for whom I speak today, I would like to reiterate my statement made at that session and say that we are still seriously concerned about the direction this Fund is taking. As the Board, we believe you have an important role to play to bring the Fund’s management back in line, to ensure regulations are upheld, oversight reinforced, violations stopped, honesty restored, labour regulations respected and whistleblowers protected. You have a key role to ensure that those who run the Fund and advise its leaders are worthy of this role, that they inspire the confidence of its participants, of the General Assembly, and of the member organizations. They must earn the trust and respect of their own staff, and the leadership must improve to be worthy of such respect.

We believe in the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund and hope that we can regain the trust necessary to have good staff-management relations and see better days ahead for staff and beneficiaries alike.

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