Monday, July 19, 2021

Does the UN Pension Fund Really Need to Invest in Financial Derivatives? Passblue: July 19, 2021 by Lowell Flanders



Excerpt:

"Why is the fund considering switching to these risky investments? So far, its members have received no explanation from Guterres as to why he is endorsing derivatives..."


"In all, the Great Recession led to a loss of more than $2 trillion in global economic growth, or a drop of nearly 4 percent, between the pre-recession peak in the second quarter of 2008 and the low hit in the first quarter of 2009, according to Moody’s Analytics.

Yet derivatives and other alternative financial instruments may soon be coming to the United Nations pension fund. Secretary-General António Guterres, in his December 2020 report to the 75th session of the General Assembly, endorsed a series of measures that would significantly change the risk profile of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund. Indeed, Guterres indicated that the UN Office of Investment Management “may use exchange-traded futures, swaps and foreign exchange forwards for the purposes of increasing the efficiency and lowering the transaction cost of implementing various investment strategies, as well as for risk management and hedging purposes.” All these instruments are considered derivatives.

In his report, he also asked the Assembly for authority “to engage in borrowing for the limited purpose of performing such transactions and to the extent that such borrowing is required as an adjunct to the securities and instruments otherwise traded or used by the Fund.” Guterres said that “any exposure of the Fund resulting from such borrowing would be adequately covered and collateralized by the assets of the Fund.” Thus, any losses caused by such borrowing would be charged to the fund’s assets held as collateral for the loans, meaning a direct financial loss to the participants and beneficiaries of the fund....

Why is the fund considering switching to these risky investments? So far, its members have received no explanation from Guterres as to why he is endorsing derivatives. In his report, he provided a boiler-plate message about the aim “to expand the range of instruments available to the Fund to more effectively manage its investments . . . over the medium term.” But there is no explanation for the increased risk that participants and beneficiaries are expected to bear."

Read full article here:

https://www.passblue.com/2021/07/19/does-the-un-pension-fund-really-need-to-invest-in-financial-derivatives/


 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

If democracy is dead in Antionio Guterres’ UN – then where can it thrive? by Michelle Rockcliffe


By Michelle Rockcliffe, UN Staff Pension Committee Participants Representative.

The events of the last few weeks in decision-making in the UN Staff Pension Committee and the UN Staff Union/NY are proof that democracy is on life support given that it has been the United Nations which has touted and taught its benefits around the world.
What is more concerning is that when staff of the United Nations violate the UN Staff Rules in terms of the UN Charter, and Code of Ethics, which call for integrity, probity, impartiality, ethics and compliance with national laws pertaining to corruption, it appears that these staff may be given some sort of assurance that their jobs would remain safe and that there be no consequences, no disciplinary action, regardless of whether it is an ethical matter or whether fraud by the staff has been investigated, proven and even reported to the General Assembly.
CASE 1 – UNITED NATIONS STAFF PENSION COMMITTEE DECISIONS

The United Nation Staff Pension Committee is a tripartite group made up of elected representatives of the General Assembly (GA), the Secretary-General (SG)-appointed representatives and Participants’ Representatives (UNPRs) elected by the active staff of UN Secretariat, Funds and Programmes.
For example, at its 337th meeting on 27th May 2021 of the United Nation Staff Pension Committee – based on the suggestion of a GA representative - decided by consensus (there were no objections among the committee members themselves), that the UNSPC would support the Participants’ Representatives proposals from 2018 and 2019 and that the UNSPC should present to the 69th Session of the Pension Board the proposal for provisional payments to former participants or survivors who had not received their entitlement in 3 months after the due date.
To the dismay of the UN Participants’ Representatives when the delayed draft proposal was received from the Chair, an SG representative on 17 June, 3 working days before a deadline, instead of a “proposal to pay”, the proposal had been changed to a “feasibility study”. It should be noted that this was the third distinct time in 4 years that GA and SG representatives had reneged on the decision and allowed the Pension Administration to talk them out of payments due by saying it was “too much work”.
The final paper reneging on the decision was posted to the portal of the Pension Board on 29th June showing in effect that there was no consensus.
There is even concern among UNPRs that even when minutes are received for review sometimes months later, that decisions have been changed from time to time, especially when there has been disagreement about taking away disability benefits, from disabled orphans, or retirees who by definition of Article 33 remain disabled.
These acts are being committed at the highest levels of the organization – with impunity - and are the opposite of the fiduciary duty that is owed to beneficiaries of the UNJSPF.
CASE 2 – the UNITED NATION STAFF UNION in NEW YORK
Twice in the last two councils, 45th and 46th, we have seen blatant actions of individuals such as fraud in the case of the 2nd Vice President of the 45th Council and what appears to be ongoing collusion and possible fraud among the UNSU Executive Board, Chair, Polling Officers and Arbitration committee to overturn a vote, gerrymandering to increase by 1200 the number of votes by DSS, election rigging by holding unlawful meetings to change term limits during the election process.
It would appear that several officials in Mr. Guterres’ administration are playing a facilitating part in these matters.
It is still fresh in the minds of staff the standoff caused when the 2013 to 2017 Ban-Ki-Moon’s administration refused to provide the lists of staff members so that the UNSU could hold elections. This was “cleaned-up” just in time for Guterres’ first appointment. But now it seems as though his administration too sees the benefit of union-busting – right at a time with the President of the host country has given Unions back their rightful place in negotiation with respect to the welfare and the conditions of service of workers
This is mind-boggling, and even though these events seem to be a reflection of the world around us, isn’t the United Nations supposed to lead by example in these areas? What is Mr. Guterres and his administration going to do about this reputational and unethical mess?

Thursday, June 24, 2021

UN Staff Pension Committee elections begin today! Vote for Ian, Mary, Ibrahima, Abolade, Egor, and Solomon! 24 June 2021


Elections begin today. Active UN staff: Vote for the representatives to the UN Staff Pension Committee with the experience, commitment, integrity -- and proven track record -- to fight for ALL our interests. Vote for Ian, Mary, Ibrahima, Abolade, Egor, and Solomon!



UN Staff Pension Committee elections: Democracy on the ropes, 21 June 2021.

(Plus read what's behind the emergency staff union meeting called for tomorrow, 22 June. More manipulation.) 

 Elections currently underway for UN participant representatives to the UN Staff Pension Committee are turning out to be a toxic stew of interference by the UN administration/Pension Board, discrimination against some candidates, manipulative behavior by a candidate, and combined forces that appear determined to disregard transparency and democracy. 

 Indeed, democratic principles and values have been under assault on a global scale during Covid-19, and now elements in the UN appear to be jumping on board this dangerous trend. 

Interference 

 In a bold move to interfere in the elections, the UN administration is funding the elections and tried and failed to block Pension Fund staff from running. Discrimination The polling officers thwarted this attempt to rig the elections by deciding to respect Fund rules instead, but the residue remains. 

They haven’t lifted the prohibition in their rules of campaigning against candidates who are Fund staff using Fund facilities or computers, while other candidates are allowed to use official facilities and computers. Membership in the Fund is mandatory for all staff members. 

Running for election to the Pension Board is an official activity; therefore, no candidate can legally be denied the use of official facilities or computers for campaign purposes. 

 And, there is no such restriction on other candidates' use of official facilities, computers, mailing lists or broadcasts for campaigning purposes, which makes this rule discriminatory. 

Manipulation 

 Then there’s the outgoing president of the UN Staff Union New York. She pushed just before the end of her term to move the New York union from the CCISUA staff union federation to UNISERV, where in a quid pro quo, she was immediately appointed vice-president of the federation. 

She also received UNISERV’s unconditional support for her candidacy to the UN Staff Pension Committee, despite having no pension experience. Every tenet of democracy appears to have been jettisoned in this gambit to move the New York union to UNISERV. 

Reportedly, when three separate votes failed to achieve a two-thirds majority, the Staff Council chair decided, contrary to the statutes, to overturn the decision and count abstentions as votes in favor. In what appears to be the latest ruse, an Emergency Staff Union New York was just called for tomorrow, 22 June, aimed at changing union statutes to allow current officers whose terms have expired, including the president, to run in upcoming elections! 

 *See response below to the call for an Emergency Staff Union meeting from Yogesh Sakhardande, candidate for leadership of the 47th Staff Council. 

Non-transparency 

 In a shameful display of non-transparency and undemocratic tactics, the administrator of a Facebook group called UN Pictures, also the UNISERV president, has posted a photo of the slate of candidates that includes the new UNISERV VP as the group’s photo, while refusing to allow campaign posts by other candidates. 

 The UN polling officers have cried foul about this seeming endorsement of a slate on behalf of one of the UN unions, instead of clarifying that it’s the personal preference of the group administrator. They have asked, to no avail, that social media groups allow all candidates to post on their sites. Democracy under attack 

 Whither democracy in the UN, the international organization that touts democracy around the world?

 In the simplest terms “democracy” means rule by the people, the ability of people to have a say in decisions and hold decision-makers to account.

 According to the Democracy Index 2020, “70 per cent of countries reported a drop in their democracy score in 2020 compared to 2019. Paramount among democratic principles and values that came under attack during Covid 19 were civil liberties, freedom of expression, accountability, and women’s equality. 

 Despite doing more than any other international organization to promote democracy around the world, the UN itself is far from being a bastion of democracy. 

 Consider the undemocratic and unrepresentative Security Council; or the closed-door white smoke process by which the UN Secretary-General, the ninth man in the UN’s 75 year history, recently re-elected to a second term; or the British colonial civil service that was the model for the UN Secretariat and its rigid staff hierarchy. 

 Now the UN appears to be getting on board with the global assault on democracy. 

Undemocratic Pension Board 

 Now, consider the undemocratic Pension Board with its imbalance of seats and voting rights, and its sustained attempts to resist reforms while intimidating and muzzling whistleblowers among the current UN participant representatives. 

Collusion 

 Finally, consider the UNSU NY president supporting the UN administration/Pension Board’s efforts by denying the UN participant representatives access to the Staff Union broadcast system to keep their constituents informed of pension activities, and then jockeying to unseat them in the upcoming elections. 

 Protect our Fund by voting for representatives who’ll fight for all our interests 

The UN Pension Fund as a defined benefit system is a dying breed. It cannot be taken for granted. Ignorance, self-interest, raw ambition and autocracy are active threats to our Fund. 

 These elections are crucial. Active UN staff, who are eligible to vote in this election must recognize the real risks of losing the gains of recent years in transparency, integrity, and efficiency and vote for those who are experienced, committed and with a proven track record of fighting for all our interests! 

 VOTE FOR IAN, MARY, IBRAHIMA, ABOLADE, EGOR, AND SOLOMON! 


 *"MORE SHAMELESS ATTEMPTS BY UNION LEADERSHIP TO RIG NY UNSU ELECTIONS BY CHANGING TERM LIMITS MIDSTREAM 

 Dear Colleague, 

 Vote NO. This is not a resolution adopted by the Council but by individuals attempting to retain power. By now you must have read a Staff Union Broadcast calling you to an Emergency General Meeting tomorrow 22nd June 2021. 

Staff Representatives have been hearing from colleagues and as one long-serving staff member wrote “This is the most outrageous case of election rigging I have ever seen.” 

Rigging of elections is a crime in any democracy, it violates UN Staff Rules and our UNSU Statutes and Regulations, both of which espouse democratic principles. Indeed it appears that current leadership is attempting to destroy our Union on its way out of office, by delaying elections and the start of the 47th Council. 

This is currently disenfranchising you, hundreds if not thousands of staff in unrepresented Units whose newly elected representatives cannot be lawfully seated at the Council until the election is complete. Not only is this move clearly unethical but additionally the UNSU regulations appear to have been violated. 

 Nowhere in the world are the rules of an election changed in the middle of the election. i. Once the Polling Officers announce the election – the rules cannot be changed. ii. Any new rules cannot be retroactive or “immediate” because in this case immediate is in the middle of an election for which rules were already distributed and most of representatives already chosen. 

This shameful act violates Article 5.11 of the Regulations which states that 

 i. The Emergency General Meeting must be in the “interests of the Union” and that means the staff members and not to further the interests of individuals - in this case the First and Second Vice Presidents of the Union and possibly the President herself. 

 ii. We have not received any proof that 300 members of the Union have requested this emergency meeting.

 iii. There was no decision for this Emergency Meeting by the Council

 iv. The fact that the Chairperson is “out of the office” is also interesting since he is apparently convening this meeting. The position paper put forward by Union President while drawing attention to the inadequacies of our Statutes failed to inform you of the following. 

 From 2017 to 2019 the current First Vice President led a group of Staff Representatives in an effort to draft amendments to the Statutes and regulations spending hundreds of hours on this task.

 At the beginning of the 46th Council Staff Representatives met to “finalize” the document, however due to the restrictions that would be placed on the current leadership the revised statutes were never brought to the staff-at-large.  

This amendment could have been made during the last two years. Over the last several months the leadership of the UNSU/NY has put the Council and this Union through the mill and left the staff in a precarious position – all in the interest of retaining power. 

April – unlawfully changing a vote so as to change affiliation of the Union from CCISUA to join UNISERV - [in Arbitration] Gerrymandering the Apportionment – A referendum was later held but without informing staff about the details Unlawfully attempting to change the information session last week to a General Meeting – it appears this was the reason. 

 Protect yourself, decry this shameful and corrupt act and save our Union from being destroyed in order for this leadership to stay in power. Rigging of elections is a crime in any jurisdiction and these actions will be pursued to the fullest extent. 

 Signed, 

Yogesh Sakhardande Candidate for Leadership of the 47th Council"

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

UN Staff Pension Committee: Elect knowledge, experience and integrity: vote for Ian, Mary, Ibrahima, Abolade, Egor and Solomon! 16 June 2021

  

Elections for UN Participant Representatives to the Pension Board will take place in June according to a four-year election cycle. As with everything related to the UN Pension Fund, it’s heavily politicized.

 

These are crucial elections. The UN Participant Representatives (four members and two alternates; one retired some time ago) have done their work of representing 85,000 UN staff in the common system (active staff) while advocating for the interests of UN retirees who have been failed by our purported and self-interested representatives, FAFICS (the Federation of Associations of Former International Civil Servants).

 

Three current candidates for election, Ian Richards (UN Geneva), Ibrahima  Faye (UNJSPF), and Mary Abu-Rakabeh (UNICEF) are incumbent UN Participant Representatives running for re-election. 


All Fund members -- active UN staff and retirees --owe a debt of gratitude to the UN Participant Representatives and to Aissatou Ndiaye and Michelle Rockcliffe who are not running for re-election. 


For the past  four years, this group of UN Participant Representatives has fought courageously and effectively against strong and determined opposition from other board members, to bring transparency, integrity and improved management to both sides of our Fund – benefits and investments.  

 

https://www.passblue.com/2020/12/23/the-un-pension-funds-latest-flareups-and-hazards-to-whistleblowers/


Not surprisingly, elements of the Fund management and Board leadership who labored unsuccessfully to deny two of them seats on the Board after the last election, and have consistently worked to intimidate and muzzle them, are working behind the scenes to rig the elections, including by trying to deny eligibility to Fund staff, a move that was thwarted by a recent decision of the polling officers..

 

http://unpension.blogspot.com/2021/06/un-pension-fund-polling-officers.html.

 

It’s important that active staff, in voting for their representatives on the UN Staff Pension Committee, keep their sights on the politics motivating the flurry of candidates, including the current UN Staff Union president, pushing to place themselves ahead of the slate that includes these experienced, trustworthy and committed incumbents.

 

There’s a lot at stake, as evidenced by a glaring break with tradition,  a sign of its determination to influence the election for its own self-interest, in which the UN administration is reportedly paying for the election, which has normally been funded by the UN Staff Unions.

 

Members of the New York Staff Union leadership, in solidarity with UN management, have also labored long and hard to oppose the current UN Participant Representatives, including  last year denying them  access to the Staff Union Broadcast system to report to their constituents on Fund activities.

 

Now a slate of incumbents including the outgoing president of the New York Staff Union, who recently led a successful effort to remove the New York Staff Union from the umbrella of CCISUA to UNISERV, is being touted as the pension champion of field staff, in a brazen move to pit one group of staff against another and in a bid to wield power in an area where she has zero experience.

 

There’s much at stake in this election to a body that has oversight of the life savings of the some  212,000 members of the fund, both active staff and retirees. The gains in transparency and efficiency in the operations of our Fund, largely due to the efforts to the UN Participant Representatives, serial audits by the UN internal oversight office (OIOS), and resulting General Assembly reforms, must be built on, solidified and increased, not reversed!


It’s critical that Fund members who are eligible to vote, active UN staff, not confuse raw ambition and self-interest with knowledge,  integrity, and experience. 


Vote for the slate of Ian, Ian, Mary, Ibrahima, Abolade, Egor and Solomon. They’ll work for ALL our interests!








 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

UN Pension Fund elections: Vote for this slate!Ian, Mary, Ibrahima, Abolade, Egor, and Solomon and protect our defined benefit pensions, 15 June 2021

 I fully and strongly support and am reposting here Lowell Flanders' statement in FCUNS Facebook group regarding the people we need on the UN Staff Pension Committee:

"VOTE FOR THIS SLATE!

I don't get to vote in this election because I am a retiree and not a serving staff member, but I would urge every staff member who can vote to vote for this slate of candidates, because they have the experience and knowledge to protect the Pension Fund for both serving staff and retirees. Ian, Ibrahima, and Mary, who are current Participant Reps on the Pension Board have actively worked to defend our interests as retirees, even though that is not their specific remit. We retirees are supposed to be represented by FAFICS, but if you have any idea what the position of FAFICS is on any given issue, such as the Mosaic Report or financial derivatives, please let us all know, because it is a well kept secret. We need representatives on the Pension Board who are not afraid to stand up to the big wigs and say what has to be said. You can't send people to the Pension Board who have no prior experience with pension issues - they'll be eaten alive.Vote for the candidates who will protect your interests!" -- Lowell Flanders








Monday, June 14, 2021

Regional Pension Sessions: Global Staff Association with UN Participant Representatives to the UN Pension Committee, 15 TO 22 June 2021

 PENSION SESSIONS

GLOBAL STAFF ASSOCIATION WITH UN PARTICIPANT REPRESENTATIVES TO THE UN PENSION COMMITTEE
15 to 22 June 2021
*Note: tomorrow's event, Tuesday, 15 June, is also for staff in New York.
"Dear Colleagues, 
The Global Staff Association, in collaboration with the UN Participants’ Representatives to the UN Pension Committee, is pleased to invite you to the planned Pension Sessions, focusing on entitlements and benefits. This is your opportunity to get to know more, ask your questions and get the answers you want.
Below is the schedule planned per region, to give the opportunity to address issues and interact with your representatives. Each session will be facilitated by the Regional Staff Association Chairperson and is open to all UN colleagues. Please feel free to circulate and share the link with colleagues in all UN agencies. 
REGION
DATE
Time (NY Time EST)
Link to join meeting
FLORENCE, GENEVA, COPENHAGEN, BUDAPEST
15 June
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Please click this URL to join. https://unicef.zoom.us/j/99077617203
Passcode: 981499
ECARO & MENA
16 June
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Please click this URL to join. https://unicef.zoom.us/j/95470331364
Passcode: 673583
EAPRO & ROSA
17 June
05:30 a.m. – 07:30 a.m.
Please click this URL to join the meeting https://unicef.zoom.us/j/93957008756
Passcode: 808530
New York & LACRO 
18 June
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Please click this URL to join. https://unicef.zoom.us/j/96889544466
Passcode: 542646
ESARO
21 June
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Please click this URL to join. https://unicef.zoom.us/j/98478236495
Passcode: 094070
WCARO
22 June
8:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Please click this URL to join. https://unicef.zoom.us/j/99649945708
Passcode: 491430
Looking forward to interacting with you and answering your queries. 
Best regards,
Noma Owens-Ibie
Chairperson, Global Staff Association"