Friday, April 26, 2019

UN PENSION FUND: "CEO" job vacancy cancelled and reissued and still falsely advertised, 26 April 2019



"CEO" JOB VACANCY CANCELLED AND RE-ISSUED AND STILL FALSELY ADVERTISED 



UN Human Resources and the Pension Board have cancelled the original falsely advertised vacancy announcement (see links below) only to reissue it with most of the same mis-statements.

The post title has been partially changed:  from "Chief Executive Officer (CEO) -- Pension Fund Administrator" to "Chief Executive Officer (CEO - Pension Benefits Administrator".

It still falsely offers a title that includes "CEO" with a five-year contract, and the possibility of an additional five years, despite General Assembly resolution A/73/274 adopted on 23 December 2018, that clearly states neither title will exist less than a year from now - January 2020.

Quote: “ Para. 13.     Notes the current dual role of the Chief Executive Officer and Secretary of the Board; and decides to replace the existing post by two distinct and independent positions as “Pension Benefits Administrator” and “Secretary of the Board” no later than January 2020”.

It's corrected the name of the "Office of Investment Management", but still implies that the functions of the post extends to both sides of the Fund, quote:  "Overseeing the Pension Fund's operations and managing its staff of over 200." 

And it still states (for an ASG-level post) that "A first-level university degree in combination with two additional years of qualifying experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced university degree.”

 CURRENT VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT:


CANCELLED VACANCY ANNOUNCEMENT: 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

False advertising: for UN Pension Fund CEO - Pension Fund Administrator, 10 April 2019








Vacancy announcement, United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund:

"Chief Executive Officer (CEO) - Pension Fund Administrator, ASG" (see link below).

This vacancy announcement for head of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund Secretariat, at the level of Assistant-Secretary-General, advertises the title as  “Chief Executive Officer (CEO) - Pension Fund Administrator”. That's a problem and there are a few others.

According to UN General Assembly resolution A/73/274 adopted on 23 December 2018, neither title will exist less than a year from now - January 2020.

The job title of "Pension Fund Administrator" and the description of the job functions imply that the functions of the post extend to both sides of the Fund (benefits and investments). That is not the case.

The announcement implies a five-year contract with those titles, and holds out the possibility of a possible further five-year contract under the same titles. That is not the case.

(Note that for all that, the announcement holds no worries for potential candidates' educational qualifications:  “A first-level university degree in combination with two additional years of qualifying experience may be accepted in lieu of the advanced university degree.”)

These are the facts:

Paragraph 13 of General Assembly resolution A/73/274 , requiring sweeping reforms to address issues in the  UN Joint Staff Pension Fund, including conflicts of interest caused by the dual role of CEO and Secretary of the Pension Board, whereby the former CEO controlled the agenda including his own performance evaluation,  states the following in paragraph 13:

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Oglesby against the UN Pension Board: More than one thing wrong with this picture. 2 April 2019



There's more than one thing wrong with this picture.

OGLESBY AGAINST THE UNITED NATIONS JOINT STAFF PENSION BOARD

Case no. 20181208

(Hear the judgment at minutes 57 to 62 on the video, and/or read the unofficial transcript below).

Pronouncement of synopsis of UN Appeals Tribunal Judgments

QUOTE “The exclusion of Mr. Oglesby’s spouse from the benefit undoubtedly denies him the conventional advantages of a family life in which spouses work together to contribute to their financial security, and more generally, perpetuates harmful and hurtful stereotypes, that same-sex relationships are unworthy of the family oriented characteristics of marriage, namely consortium, companionship, and support. This is demeaning, and an invasion of dignity and equality. There is accordingly merit in Mr. Oglesby’s argument, but unfortunately the Appeals Tribunal has no remedial power to grant him the relief he seeks.”

QUESTIONS: What is the applicability of the following Fund regulation covering marriage after the date of separation from service? Did the UNAT address this very relevant issue? What is the obligation of the Fund to inform its members of its relevant Regulations? What are the options for redress in this case?

If you are getting married after separation from service, there is no eligibility for a widow(er) benefit unless you elect to purchase an annuity within one year of the marriage (Article 35 ter of the Fund’s Regulations). Such election will be effective 18 months after the date of your marriage. For more information about the option to purchase an annuity for a spouse you married after separation from service, pleasecontact the Fund or check out our comprehensive booklet on Survivor’s Benefits.” (See link to the UNJSPB website below)."


Unofficial transcript:


Mr. Oglesby appeals against the decision of the Standing Committee of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board refusing to recognize his spouse as a prospective survivor for the purposes of a widower’s benefit under articles 34 and 35 of the Fund’s Regulations. Mr. Oglesby, a national of the United States of America, participated in the Fund for approximately twenty-five years. Upon his separation from service in 1998, Mr. Oglesby opted for a reduced early retirement benefit  under Article 29 of the Regulations.

At the time of his separation from service, Mr. Oglesby was unmarried but in a same-sex relationship.  On 23 April 2018, twenty years after his separation from service and after they had lived together continuously for thirty-six years, Mr. Oglesby married his partner in New York. Same-sex marriage only became lawful in New York in 2015. Under the expressed terms of Articles 34 and 35, Mr. Oglesby’s spouse is not entitled to a survivor’s benefit. At the time he separated from service, Mr. Oglesby was not married, and his same-sex relationship at that time did not enjoy similar status to marriage under the law of the United States. Moreover, the Fund’s extended concept of marriage to include same sex relationships, adopted by the Pension Board in 2016, does not apply retrospectively. 

Mr. Oglesby’s contentions, however, go beyond a claim to benefit under Articles 34 and 35 of the Regulations. He argues that the provisions of Articles 34 and 35 restricting his entitlement are inconsistent with the Charter of the United Nations and that he should be afforded relief on that basis. The universal principle of nondiscrimination in article 8 of the Charter and Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibits unfair discrimination on illegitimate grounds including sexual orientation and marital status. Mr. Oglesby submits that articles 34 and 35 of the Regulations unfairly discriminated against persons in same-sex relationships. Had his relationship been heterosexual, there would have been no legal obstacle to marriage and his spouse would have qualified for a spousal benefit at some time in the future.

The exclusion of Mr. Oglesby’s spouse from the benefit undoubtedly denies him the conventional advantages of a family life in which spouses work together to contribute to their financial security, and more generally, perpetuates harmful and hurtful stereotypes, that same-sex relationships are unworthy of the family oriented characteristics of marriage, namely consortium, companionship, and support. This is demeaning, and an invasion of dignity and equality. There is accordingly merit in Mr. Oglesby’s argument, but unfortunately the Appeals Tribunal has no remedial power to grant him the relief he seeks. The Appeals Tribunal does not have the prerogative to apply the Charter directly, nor the power to strike down internal or subsidiary legislative provisions inconsistent with the norms it enacts.  The jurisdiction of the Appeals Tribunal is restricted by Article 2, Subarticle 9 of the UNAT statute to determine whether there has been non-observance of the regulations. The Fund has acted in keeping with its Regulations. If there is indeed any enduring discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation inconsistent with the Charter that is a matter for the Secretary-General or the General Assembly. In the premises, the appeal regrettably must fail. The appeal is dismissed and the decision of the Standing Committee is affirmed.

http://webtv.un.org/watch/pronouncement-of-synopsis-of-un-appeals-tribunal-judgments/6020079678001/http://webtv.un.org/watch/pronouncement-of-synopsis-of-un-appeals-tribunal-judgments/6020079678001/



https://www.unjspf.org/help-tutorials/frequently-asked-questions-faqs/faq-beneficiaries/https://www.unjspf.org/help-tutorials/frequently-asked-questions-faqs/faq-beneficiaries/

Monday, April 1, 2019

UNAT Orders the Pension Fund to Pay Widow's Benefit, 1 April 2019



Pronouncement of synopsis of UN Appeals Tribunal Judgments

Quote: “We accordingly uphold the appeal, set aside the decision of the Standing Committee and order the Fund to pay Ms. Clemente a widow’s benefit with effect from 29 June 2016 together with other consequential brief.”

Case 20181206:  Clemente against the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board

(View video from approx. minutes 50-55, or read transcript below).

Unofficial transcript:

Ms. Clemente appeals against a decision of the Standing Committee of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board refusing to pay her a widow’s benefit in terms of article 34 of the Fund’s Regulations. 
Article 34 provides that a widow’s benefit will be payable to the surviving spouse of a participant who is entitled to a retirement benefit at the time of his death if she was married to the deceased at the date of separation of service and remained married to him until his death.

Ms. Clemente married her deceased husband in the Philippines in March 1995 and remained in a relationship with him for twenty-one years until his death on the 29th of June 2016,  a mere seven months after he had retired from service on the 30th of November 2015. Mr. Clemente  listed Ms. Clemente as his spouse throughout his participation in the Fund,  from October 1999 until his retirement.  However,Mr. Clemente was previously married in the Philippines to Ms. Madeline Agbyane.  He married her in 1978,  but this marriage was not annulled by a court in the Philippines until the 21st of August 1996, about a year after his marriage to Ms. Clemente. Divorce is not legal in the Philippines. The only manner in which a marriage can end other than through the death of a spouse is by annulment.  The causes for annulment are of a restricted nature, for example, fraud or one of the parties not being of sound mind.  

The Fund informed Ms. Clemente that on its understanding of Philippine law, her marriage to Mr. Clemente was bigamous and thus null and void because it predated the annulment of Mr. Clemente’s first marriage. Accordingly, it rejected her request for a widow’s benefit under Article 34.  

In accordance with the general principles of private international law, the validity of a marriage is usually assessed and determined in accordance with the lege loco celebrationem, law of the place of celebration, being in this case the law of the Philippines. The Supreme Court of the Philippines has ruled on various occasions that although a second marriage celebrated while a first marriage was still subsisting might be presumed to be void ab initio, it would be presumptively valid until declared a nullity by a court.  The reasoning of the Supreme Court of the Philippines reflects pragmatism in assessing the consequences of illegality. In most municipal legal systems,  illegal juridical acts are often deemed to exist until they are set aside by a court in appropriate proceedings because they have legal consequences that cannot be simply overlooked.  A marriage may be hypothetically a nullity but remains effective and is in reality valid until a judicial declaration to the contrary.  The evidence does not disclose that Ms. Clemente’s marriage has been the subject of any legal proceedings for a declaration of nullity in the Philippines. The marriage is recognized by the competent authorities of the Philippines. Her presumptively valid marriage was extant at the date Mr. Clemente separated from service and she remained so married to him until his death.

In the premises,  Ms. Clemente is entitled to payment of a widow’s benefit in terms of article 34 of the Regulations. Ms. Clemente’s request for costs of the appeal cannot be sustained.  Article 9, Subarticle 2 of the UNAT statute permits the Appeals Tribunal to award costs only if a party has manifestly abused the appeals process.  The decision of the Standing Committee was reached in good faith and in the interest of the other participants of the Fund. It stands as by no means an abuse of the process. We accordingly uphold the appeal, set aside the decision of the Standing Committee and order the Fund to pay Ms. Clemente a widow’s benefit with effect from 29 June 2016 together with other consequential brief.







United Nations Appeals Tribunal: "The Fund's actions in this regard are egregious". 1 April 2019





SHE WON HER CASE. THEY TRIED AGAIN. SHE WON AGAIN. NOW THE PENSION BOARD IS TRYING TO CHANGE THE FUND'S REGULATIONS....

Michelle Rockcliffe vs. the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board

UNAT Judgment 20181201 (watch video approx. minutes 31 to 37, link below,  or read transcript). 

When Michelle Rockcliffe was elected in 2017 to the Pension Board as a UN Participant Representative, the Pension Board, pushed by the former Fund CEO, tried to block her membership to the Board on grounds of a conflict of interest. The United Nations Appeal Tribunal found it her favor and she took her seat on the Board.

The Pension Fund management and the Pension Board, were relentless. Subsequently, with help from the Ethics Office, the Pension Board again sought to deny her membership on the Budget Working Group, on the basis of the same grounds of conflict of interest which had been vacated by the Tribunal. The UNAT has now ruled that the actions of the Board were “egregious” in failing to comply with the UNAT order. 

Quote: “The Fund’s actions in this regard are egregious. The ruling of the Tribunal explicitly ordered that Mrs. Rockcliffe should be allowed to participate and function as an elected member to the Pension Committee in all relevant areas including the Pension Board’s constituent groups, committees, and working groups. ....We thus order that Mrs. Rockcliffe be allowed to participate as an appointed member of the Budget Working Group without prejudice to her recusing herself when an actual conflict of interest emerges.” 

Note that in response to this case, and in its continued quest to reduce transparency and oversight of its actions, the Pension Board, spurred on by the Fund management and Board Chair, has continued its attempt to bar Fund staff from being elected to the Board by proposing a change to Article 6 of the Fund’s Regulations as well as Article 48, where it’s attempting to limit the jurisdiction of the UNAT. The General Assembly is apparently not so easily hoodwinked. In para. 20 of its resolution A/73/274 calling for sweeping reforms in Fund governance, it “Requests the Board to provide further analysis on the impact of the proposed amendment to Articles 6 and 48 and to report in the context of the next report.” 


Unofficial transcript: 

Pronouncement of synopsis of UN Appeals Tribunal (UNAT) Judgments

Case no. 20181201, Rockcliffe against the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board

The crux for consideration and determination of this application for execution is whether it falls within the scope of the Appeals Tribunal’s order in its previous judgment issued on Dec 8 2017.  In the previous case, the issue of conflict of interest alleged arose from the fact that Mrs. Rockcliffe had been elected to the Pension Committee and consequently to the Pension Board while being a staff member of the Pension Fund.  It was contended that Mrs. Rockcliffe would be overseeing her own work and that of the CEO of the Pension Fund as well as approving the budget requests and deciding on appeals against the Fund.

The main findings of the Appeals Tribunal on the merits was firstly, there was no law then prohibiting Mrs. Rockcliffe from running for election to the staff Pension Committee; secondly, she was lawfully elected; and thirdly, Mrs. Rockcliffe should consequently be accorded the same rights and privileges as the other duly elected Pension Committee members, including participating in Pension Board sessions and meetings and its constituent groups, committees and working groups. 

We find that although the Appeals Tribunal did not explicitly address the issue of conflict of interest in the previous judgment, it implicitly rejected it by applying the law in force at the time. The Appeals Tribunal stated that at the time when Mrs. Rockcliffe decided to be a candidate in the election, there was no law which prevented her from being elected to the Pension Committee. The Appeals Tribunal then held that the Standing Committee’s decision to prevent her from participating in any form of preparations for the Pension Board sessions and meetings and its constituent groups, committees and working groups is not in accordance with the law and is therefore flawed. It ordered that she should be allowed to participate and function as an elected member of the Pension Board in all relevant areas including its constituent groups, committees and wording groups.

Subsequent to the judgment, Mrs. Rockcliffe as a member of the Staff Pension  Committee was  appointed by the Board to be a member of the Budget Working Group. However, her name was removed from the list of its members based on an opinion from the UN Ethics Office which by and large repeated the earlier arguments of the Standing Committee which had been vacated by the Tribunal.

While the argument of retaliation cannot be considered in the present application for execution of judgment since it was not dealt with in the previous judgment and cannot be brought to the Tribunal’s attention at this stage, the grounds to refuse Mrs. Rockcliffe to participate as an appointed member to the Budget Working Group are basically the same used with regard to her participation in the Staff Pension Committee, which had already been rejected by the Appeals Tribunal.

What the Pension Fund seems to seek with the second decision based on the same argument of conflict of interest is to revisit the underlying factor and legal premises applicable to Mrs. Rockcliffe’s situation resulting from her being a staff member of the Fund. The Fund’s actions in this regard are egregious. The ruling of the Tribunal explicitly ordered that Mrs. Rockcliffe should be allowed to participate and function as an elected member to the Pension Committee in all relevant areas including the Pension Board’s constituent groups, committees, and working groups.

We consider therefore that the previous order is flawed.  By preventing her from serving as a Budget Working Group member, the Pension Fund failed to comply with the UNAT order. Instead the Pension Fund erroneously concluded that a possible potential conflict of interest could justify excluding Mrs. Rockcliffe from participating in any activity of the Budget Working Group. It would have been a better conclusion to comply with the UNAT order and allow her to participate in said group entirely. If any specific circumstance brings about an actual conflict of interest, it should be dealt with as it arises.  If there is indeed a conflict, Mrs. Rockcliffe can then appropriately recuse herself from that decision and that would be in keeping with the declaration referred to by the Pension Fund.

We thus order that Mrs. Rockcliffe be allowed to participate as an appointed member of the Budget Working Group without prejudice to her recusing herself when an actual conflict of interest emerges.  Mrs. Rockcliffe’s application for execution is partially upheld and the decision to remove her name from the list of members elected to the Budget Working Group is rescinded.



Saturday, March 30, 2019

UN retirees: Step Up on Pension Issues! 30 March 2019



INFORMATION IS POWER: WHY MORE UN RETIREES NEED TO BE INFORMED ABOUT PENSION ISSUES AND WHY EACH OF US NEEDS TO DO OUR PART (including engaging our local retiree associations and reaching out to other retirees)
This post is in response to some of the comments on the discussion thread on my post of the summary of the recent UN Pension Briefing by UN Participant Representatives to the Pension Board, who represent active UN staff and also advocate for the interests of UN retirees. It's an important topic and one that's worth considering. Specifically, for the sake of the continued health of our Fund, we need the reforms in General Assembly resolution A/73/274 to be implemented.  Pushback is intense from the Pension Board, which includes some key members of the UN Administration, the Fund Secretariat management, and FAFICS, the UN retiree representative body, on many of the major reforms contained in the resolution, including on  direct election by retirees of our Pension Board representatives, and necessary adjustments to the composition of the Board. 

Why do many UN retirees remain uninformed about issues concerning our Fund? OIOS governance audit A/73/341 states in para. 22 that "[FAFICS represents only 18,500 beneficiaries (approximately 25 per cent) of a total beneficiary population of 74,788 as at 31 December 2016". (Note that of the 74,788 beneficiary population, about 54,000 are retirees and some 20,000 are their dependents). The president of FAFICS, Marco Breschi, is on record as stating in this connection, "that In my mind [retiree non-members of FAFICS] are simply people who feel adequately protected by our action and don't feel the need to go the extra step to register with their local AFICS /FAFICS"!! (His response to Lowell Flanders dated 19 October 2019). It's certainly a peculiar perspective, and one that's emblematic of FAFICS' approach to the issue of political representation!
If we consider retirees only and not their dependents, the approx. one-third (18,500) of UN retirees world-wide who are members of FAFICS, are minimally, if at all, more informed than the almost two-thirds (approx. 36,000 plus) of retirees who are not FAFICS members. FAFICS has worked strenuously to keep vital information from its members, including from the leadership of its 60 plus associations around the world. With a very few exceptions (there are one or two) there’s no indication that the leadership of most of these associations are abreast of the issues, or that they’re making any effort to keep their members informed.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Pension information session - summary, 28 March 2019




                                                                                                                     Photo by Lowell Flanders

UN PENSION BRIEFING BY UN PARTICIPANTS REPRESENTATIVES TO THE PENSION BOARD

26 March 2019, 1.15 to 2.30 pm, Conference Room 8, UNHQ NY


1.   Elements of the statement by Ian Richards
2.   Elements of the statement by Michelle Rockcliffe
3.   Elements of the Q&A

(Note: see links below to i) OIOS audit A/73/341; ii) GA resolution A/RES/73/274; iii) OIOS rebuttal to report of the Pension Board, A/73/9.)

1.         Elements of the statement by Ian Richards

Background

The UN Participant Representatives to the Pension Board  (4 representatives and 2 alternates), who represent 75,000 to 80,000 active staff Fund members, were elected two years ago at a time when the Fund was undergoing a number of challenges.

The problems included premature launching of the new IT system, which the then CEO knew could lead to critical problems. The result was that some staff waited up to nine months for their first pension payment.

The Pension Board attempted to change the staff rules with the effect of removing the Fund from the UN, raising the specter of privatizing the Fund and a related crisis of confidence.

There was a move to change the Fund’s financial rules at a time when OIOS (the UN internal oversight office) was pointing out attempts by the Fund management to circumvent the UN procurement system. Efforts were made to change an MOU between the Fund and the UN with the goal of allowing changes to UN rules regarding the acceptance of gifts and the hiring of staff.

The situation posed financial and reputational risks to the Fund that could affect its sustainability. There was also the risk that Member States might decide to change the current pension system to a 401K or other system.

When these concerns were brought to the attention of the Pension Board, the Board did not act in the interest of Fund members. The Staff Union received support for its efforts to block some of these actions from the then head of the Department of Management, from the Secretary-General, and from the General Assembly.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Pension information session, Tuesday, 26 March, UNHQ New York, mark your calendar



DIRECT WEBCAST LINK FOR TOMORROW'S PENSION INFORMATION SESSION:  http://webtv.un.org/watch/cr8-en/5707157274001

MESSAGE FROM THE UN PARTICIPANT REPRESENTATIVES TO THE PENSION BOARD
PENSION INFORMATION SESSION
Tuesday, 26 March 2019
1.15 to 2.30 pm
Conference Room 8, UNHQ New York

"Dear Colleagues,
Following questions and concerns from many of you, we are organizing a pension fund information session on Tuesday, 26 March 2019 in Conference Room 8 from 1:15 pm to 2:30 pm. The session is open to all staff and retirees.
During the session we will address the following questions:
What changes to our pension fund has the General Assembly asked for and why?
What are we doing to ensure your fund is well governed?
Panel
Michelle Rockcliffe, UN Staff Pension Committee member
Ian Richards, UN Staff Pension Committee member
Moderator: Aitor Arauz Chapman,
We look forward to seeing you next Tuesday."