Friday, July 24, 2015

Message to the UN Pension Board: protect the health and safety of our Pension Fund! (23 July 2015)

23 July 2015

Members of the Joint Staff Pension Board, 

We have the honour to present to you below a petition signed by more than 3,176 participants and beneficiaries of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund, requesting that you maintain in place the current system of checks and balances that has allowed the Fund to thrive over the past 65 years when many public pension funds have failed. 

This petition follows a previous petition in May 2014 initiated by the United Nations Office in Geneva, which was signed by more than 13,000 Fund participants and beneficiaries. 

We are aware that the Pension Board requested a review of, and adjustments as needed, to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Fund Secretariat and the Office of Human Resources Management that provides for certain administrative flexibilities to the Chief Executive Officer in human resources management, including recruitment, retention, mobility, and classification of posts. 

However, the proposed changes requested by the CEO go much further than mere adjustments to the current MOU requested by the Pension Board and would in fact result in a virtual delegation of authority in human resources matters to the CEO, while allowing him to assume authority over staff in the Investment Management Division.

Even if this is done in consultation with the Representative of the Secretary-General for Investments (RSG), such a change will compromise the long established rule in the Pension Fund of keeping the liabilities and investments completely separate. 

We believe, as do the Presidents of the Staff Union, CCISUA, and FICSA, that the MOU currently in effect already contains all the administrative flexibility needed for efficient operation of the Fund.  Granting further authority or autonomy to the Chief Executive Officer does not serve the interests of efficiency, effectiveness and transparency of Fund operations. We were encouraged by the recent announcement by the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Mr. Takasu, that finalization of the draft MOU has been placed on hold to allow for more dialogue and consultations among all concerned parties. 

Equally worrisome for both participants and beneficiaries of the Pension Fund, are the disquieting media reports of a movement on the part of the Fund toward more outsourcing and alternative investments. In this regard, the President of the Association of Former International Civil Servants (AFICS) told us at a meeting on 17 June 2015 that the RSG for Investments, herself, leaked information to the press in this regard. 

While there have been assurances from the RSG and other senior UN officials, including Chef de Cabinet, Malcorra and the ASG for Human Resources, Wainaina, that there is no basis for reports of a movement toward riskier investment policies, and that the redrafted MOU contains no implications for breaching the current structure of the Fund, there remains sufficient information to the contrary to leave many participants and beneficiaries concerned about the future health of the Fund. 

We are sending you this petition with the request that you oppose any proposals, including in a redrafted MOU, that could affect the current bifurcated structure of the Fund, or remove Pension Fund staff from the protections of the UN recruitment and promotion system. We are also requesting that you reject any movement toward increasing the size of the Fund’s portfolio in risky alternative investments such as hedge funds, in order to ensure that the continuing health and viability of this most important benefit to United Nations staff are protected and preserved for current and future participants and beneficiaries.

Loraine Rickard-Martin     Lowell Flanders        
Curling Smith            Anna Theofilopoulou

Petition signers as of 23 July 2015
Petition text per Avaaz


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