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


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


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


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?
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."