Proposed Changes to your pay and benefits (P staff)

Published on Tuesday, 05 May 2015

The International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) is reviewing the pay and conditions of professional staff. It will review national officers, general service and related categories next year.

The review is supposed to simplify and modernise our compensation system. However, we believe it is bowing to political pressure from certain member states bent on cutting costs.

The review's recommendations are made by the commissioners of the ICSC after listening to the arguments of the federations of staff unions (we have been very active in this review) and from the management representatives of the organizations of the UN common system.

The review is not yet final. Two more meetings will take place. Your staff federations have worked hard to remove the worst proposals and are continuing to work to improve prospects. The recommendations of the review will be submitted this fall to the General Assembly for its approval.

Also not yet finalised are transitional measures to ensure that current staff do not directly lose out financially when moving to the new system.

We would like to share with you where the review currently is and how the CCISUA and FICSA staff federations (our Staff Union is a member of CCISUA) have worked on this matter.

Salary Scale

The biggest difference is one salary scale for all staff (instead of the single and dependent scales we have now).

Staff with spouses who are not employed will get a 6 percent spouse allowance to reflect the difference in tax treatment in the United States. The new scale will be 6 percent less than the current dependency scale, which means that single staff will in most cases get paid more, while staff with non-working spouses will be paid the same.

Staff whose spouses work but who have dependent children will receive a child allowance of $2,900 regardless of the number of children.

A decision has yet to be made for single parents. We believe they should receive the same allowance as staff with non-working spouses to reflect the costs of maintaining a household and paying for childcare.

The new salary scale has 13 steps in each grade (except D-2 with 10 steps). Staff at D-1 and D-2 will therefore have more steps in their grade and will be able to earn more within their grade. Staff at P-3 and P-4 will have two steps less. We believe this will penalise a large body of staff and have expressed our concerns on this.

At the same time new steps are added in the P-2 grade, below step 1. And salaries at the P-1 level are reduced by 6 percent.

The increase in steps at the D-2 level, means that proposed new salaries for ASGs and USGs increase by 10 percent. More generally it increases pay inequality between grades, and again we will be making our concerns heard.

No changes will be made to the basis on which your pension is calculated (pensionable remuneration) for the time being.

Performance-related Pay

A proposal had been made whereby step increases would take place every two years with the savings channelled into a bonus pool.

Given the impracticalities that staff federations pointed out (difficult to measure individual contribution in a team-working policy environment, and lack of rigour in our performance evaluation system), and that bonuses are always paid from separate funds, the ICSC decided not to pursue this further.

However, organizations may pay bonuses from additional funds, as is already the case at IFAD and UNOPS.

Progression through Steps

The ICSC has recommended that staff progress annually through to the seventh step of each grade and biannually thereafter, to reflect trends in national civil services and in the US. However, we are concerned by this as the biannual progression through steps after the seventh step removes the point of annual performance evaluations.

Education Grant

Education grant is maintained for primary, secondary and tertiary. Staff federations had to work to keep the tertiary coverage.

However, the ICSC has recommended that boarding not be covered for staff in H duty stations (e.g. New York, Vienna, Geneva, Rome, Paris) except if they are in very mobile functions. The ICSC argued that there are adequate private day schools in these duty stations and that boarding is a lifestyle choice.

Staff federations believe that with the implementation of mobility policies, boarding may be required for continuity of education regardless of the duty station.

A new global sliding scale is established to reimburse education fees but is now limited to tuition and tuition-related costs. This is ostensibly to encourage staff to opt for cheaper schools. Therefore, while for staff paying $35,000, the overall level of reimbursement will be at 75 percent, staff opting for schools costing less will benefit from a higher rate of reimbursement. We need to ensure the scale is realistic given limited choices in some expensive duty stations.

The decision to no longer cover costs such as food and transport will have implications for staff.

Rest and Recuperation

There had been a push to reduce the frequency of R&R cycles based on an assumption that staff were benefiting too much. We argued that this assumption was based on a misunderstanding of how the system works and that R&R was essential to the well-being of staff in very difficult locations. Management argued the same.

The ICSC has recommended to maintain the current R&R system but discontinue annual home leave in the hardest duty stations as it believes that maintaining contact with the home country is no more important for staff in hardship locations than it is for staff in H, A and B duty stations, a position on which we have doubts. There will however be an examination of whether security should be the only consideration in classifying a duty station as non-family, given that certain safe but very difficult duty stations are not suitable for families, especially children.

Hardship Allowance

Following some discussion, the ICSC has recommended maintaining the current five hardship levels. However, single staff and those with dependents will receive the same, with no loss for dependents and gains for singles.

For staff posted to non-family duty stations, the ICSC recommended, despite our strong concerns, that the second home allowance (called additional hardship allowance) be significantly reduced for staff with dependents (although there will be small gains for singles). We do not believe this makes sense at a time that organizations want more staff to move to the field.

Mobility Allowance

There was a lot of discussion on this matter, with some commissioners arguing that with the increasing implementation of mobility policies, a mobility allowance was no longer required as an incentive. However we argued that the disruption caused by mobility still needed to be compensated for if mobility were to be more attractive.

In this light, the ICSC has recommended that the mobility allowance would be paid as an upfront payment every year for five years following a move to a non H duty station. Our position is that the mobility allowance should also apply to staff who move to H duty stations as mobility is disruptive regardless of destination.

Relocation Allowance (Shipping and Settling in Costs)

Given the apparent complexity of this issue, the ICSC has so far not been able to reach any conclusion. Our concerns, shared by management, are that options proposed so far would leave staff who change duty station, out of pocket.

Conclusion

The review is still ongoing. While there are some positives for certain staff, it appears at this stage that the review will leave staff overall worse off, especially with regards to staff who will be expected to be more mobile.

We do not think this situation acceptable. We need your support, ideas and inputs in order to take our campaign forward.

©2018 UNOV Staff Union