General Assembly decisions on Common System issues, Human Resources and Budget

Published on Thursday, 9 January 2014

The UN General Assembly finally reached agreement on Common System issues, Human Resources and Budget on 27 December 2013, after extremely tough negotiations that ran through Christmas day. The outcome is as follows:

  • The budget was passed with some small adjustments to what was proposed. A major sticking point was who should pay for the $165 million of overspending in 2013. Some countries wanted this to be taken from the 2014 budget, which could have resulted in heavy post cuts. Fortunately, it will now be paid from unspent balances and by Member States. But we will still keep a close eye on any impact on staff.
  • The proposed Professional salary cut by bringing down the margin was defeated. There will instead be a post adjustment freeze ( pay freeze) as required by the rules. However, the General Assembly has asked the International Civil Service Commission, which sets our pay and conditions, to report back with suggestions on how to bring the margin (our salaries) down over a period of time.
  • The proposed 1.6 percent increase in staff contributions to the pension fund was defeated. However, the General Assembly requested that the pension fund keep a close eye on contribution rates in the US Government, which have increased for new officials.
  • A proposal supported by us on allowing current staff to choose to retire at 65, instead of 60 or 62, was deferred to later in the year. Member States require further clarifications.
  • A decision on mobility policy was deferred to spring. There is significant opposition by certain countries, especially on grounds of cost.

Overall we are relieved, given the unfavourable scenario that presented itself late last year and on which I kept you informed. We believe that this is in part due to the many meetings we and representatives of other staff unions and Federations had with delegates in New York to put forward the staff perspective and ensure staff did not bear the cost of cuts.

Clearly this is not the end: just the beginning of a new chapter. However, the issue of a pay cut has not entirely disappeared, decisions still need to be made on the retirement age and mobility, and further posts could be impacted depending on the ongoing financial situation. At the same time, our overall package of salaries and allowances is being reviewed, during which time allowances will not increase.

We should be aware that the Compensation Review will be extremely challenging, since it will be pursued in a climate of political pressure that could easily divert the attention from technical and social considerations.

All this will imply a heavy agenda of research and meeting Member States over the course of the year to put forward a strong and effective position.

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