Secretary-General removes right of staff to be effectively represented

Published on Tuesday, 16 July 2013

We are shocked and disappointed by Friday's announcement of the Secretary-General's unilateral decision to implement a new Bulletin on Staff Management Committee ( ST/SGB/2011/6/Rev.1).

This new bulletin removes a hard-won right of your elected representatives to negotiate with Management on the workplace issues that concern you, whether you are in headquarters or the field, a conference room or a conflict zone. This right is observed in national legislations around the world. It is upheld by international human rights and labour laws and is a condition of membership of the United Nations Global Compact. This right has been replaced by, in Management's own words on iSeek, "a dialogue with staff."

Without knowing what "a dialogue with staff" might mean, we are further disappointed that in implementing this new bulletin, the Secretary-General went around his own rules. As the contents of the bulletin were the subject of disagreement between staff representatives and Management at negotiations in Mexico City, there should have been a mediation process ( ST/SGB/2011/6 art 1.3). Instead, and as the iSeek message admits, it was simply "re-circulated [by email]… to allow for further submission of comments". Unions considered consultation by email to be meaningless and reiterated their legal right to mediation. This was ignored and the bulletin was issued, showing scant regard for the rule of law by the Secretary-General and a bad faith approach to negotiations.

Because we believe that the way in which the new bulletin was issued was illegal, we are not in a position to recognize it.

Overall, this development deprives you of your right to be effectively represented and marks the start of a new era at the United Nations of rule by decree. All this takes place at a time when many significant reforms affecting your job security are being planned. This would explain why the Secretary-General chose to so harmfully misinterpret and implement within three months a non-urgent and vague paragraph (para. 71) in General Assembly resolution 67/255 when many more specific and urgent resolutions and demands by member states go untouched for years.

Moving forward, we have already submitted legal challenges against the new bulletin and will be following them closely. We have also informed member states of the situation and drawn their attention to the Secretary-General's misrepresentation of General Assembly resolution and of the events of the last few months. Both these actions will continue.

At the same time we will coordinate with the other unions of the United Nations system to ensure an effective, strong and united front. We will consult with you and keep you informed as we go forward. We reject the new bulletin and will do all we can to ensure a platform for negotiation between staff representatives and Management that meets the most basic requirements of international law.

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