Friday, May 13, 2016

AFICS annual assembly, Thursday, 19 May 2016, 3 pm, ECOSOC Chamber: Checking democracy at the door, 13 May 2016

The AFICS President and Governing Board are gearing up for their annual assembly blowout next week (Thursday, 19 May 2016, 3 pm in the ECOSOC Chamber).

Yesterday, 12 May,  members received an email from AFICS noting that “The meeting [assembly] is for AFICS/NY Members in good standing.” (Members with unpaid dues received a lengthier message.) The same email messages informed AFICS members that the meeting has been moved to the ECOSOC Chamber.

Under Article VII of the AFICS by-laws (2) “Members who fail to pay dues for two consecutive years shall have their rights and privileges suspended until payment is effected.” Therefore, members are in “good standing” unless they have “failed to pay dues for two consecutive years. Is this issue of such importance that the AFICS leadership should at the very least have clarified their interpretation of “good standing”?  We think so.

So four working days before the meeting (three, if you consider that the AFICS office is closed on Fridays), AFICS members who have email addresses (many do not) are informed that they may attend only if their dues are paid and that the venue has changed. What about members without either email or Internet access? Has there been a mass mailing or are they simply out of luck? (I wasn't able to check because the AFICS office is closed on Fridays).

If the AFICS leadership plans to have members present valid AFICS membership cards in order to attend the assembly, this will be the first time in years, or ever, that this sort of door-check has been done. 

Some of us had the temerity to write last Tuesday (11 May) to the AFICS President and Governing Board asking for the addition of an agenda item, as provided for in the by-laws under article IV.4 The Assembly: "(f) to consider any other matter submitted to it by the Governing Board or proposed by any member.”

We want to see the By-Laws and Rules of Procedure revised to let some air (more participation by members) into that bastion of musty back room politics inhabited by the leadership. We're eagerly awaiting a response. 

Recall that some weeks ago the AFICS Nominating Committee circulated ballots to the AFICS membership for electing six of ten nominees to the Governing Board. The ten nominees were handpicked by the Nominating Committee, which had previously been handpicked by the President.

There was no time to implement the by-law provision whereby 20 AFICS members may nominate a candidate for election to the Board. Under the by-laws, the deadline for such nominations is 90 days before the general assembly. By the time the ballots were received and the date of the assembly announced, the deadline for nominations had already expired by almost a month.

So without the AFICS membership at large lifting a finger to vote, six of the ten nominees could count on election and the other four on appointment to the Board (also a provision in the ny-laws).

Recall as well the AFICS’ leadership’s rejection last year of the request by 82 AFICS members, in writing, under the By-Laws for a general meeting to discuss pension matters before the Pension Board meeting scheduled for last July.  We received a litany of excuses (no need to recount here). 

So with all the serious threats to our pensions (read 'Trouble at the pension fund', UN Special, if you haven't already done so, see link below) we have the opportunity next week to attend the assembly and ask the AFICS leadership some inconvenient questions:  What are the leadership’s positions going into the next Pension Board meeting  -- on the MOU (currently on hold); on the pension backlog (so far the extent of their ‘advocacy’ has been posting the CEO’s dubious updates on the AFICS website, along with DM’s iSeek messages); on the lack of oversight and risk management in the Investment Management Division. Yes, we know they’re ‘concerned’. We want to know what they’re actually doing to protect our interests.

And by the way, besides funding trips to European destinations in their ‘representative’ functions, where exactly do our membership dues go? We’ve seen AFICS budgets in the past but none of us is able to say with any certainty what the leadership does with the funds it so diligently collect.

The AFICS leadership should not be barring any member from the general meeting under ambiguous terms concerning membership dues. The AFICS leadership should also be making every effort to inform the entire membership of the venue change, including those who have no access to email or the Internet. 

So show up to the ECOSOC Chamber next Thursday, 19 May, at 3 pm. We must hold the AFICS leadership accountable. Ensuring that they hear us and represent our interests at the pension board has never been more important that at this critical juncture in the health of our fund.

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