The Staff Union aims to establish a permanent local joint committee to monitor the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund and to increase local knowledge among staff on pension-related issues.
The UN Joint Staff Pension Board
The 63rd session of the UN Joint Staff Pension Board (UNJSPB) was held in Vienna from 14 to 22 July 2016.
Ahead of this meeting, almost 15,000 staff signed a petition calling on the Board to:
The petition generated considerable discussion at the Board. However, having been made aware of your petition, it then unanimously decided the following:
However, at our initiative, the Board accepted a proposal that newly retiring staff not paid on time would receive provisional payments. This is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough (it does not introduce an obligation to make such payments, contrary to what we proposed, and the delay stretches to three months instead of 30 days). At the same time, it is the closest the Board has come to acknowledging the problems with its new IT system called IPAS.
So there were some small improvements, which would never have happened without support of staff, but we still have a long way to go.
Against this, the Board for the first time:
The strength of feeling behind the petition also led to a town hall for staff in Vienna. At the packed meeting:
Looking ahead, it is clear that the Fund is facing a number of challenges in terms of leadership, governance, investment performance and its ability to pay retirees. In addition, further evidence has come to light regarding:
There is some good news. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of staff unions to increase the retirement age to 65, despite opposition by many organizations, the Fund now has an actuarial surplus of 0.16 percent, where previously it was in deficit. Unfortunately, the Fund's current investment underperformance may tip this back into negative territory.
Staff Unions will be taking these concerns to the General Assembly in the fall, as the GA has to approve any of the decisions made by the Board. At the GA the Unions will also make clear staff's concerns on the mismanagement of the Fund and the gradual steps being taken by the Board to remove the Fund from the UN. It is only by having a Fund that is firmly within the UN, with staff that share our same long-term interests, that we can ensure the security of our retirement.
We also wish to thank the operational staff of the Fund, who have been working hard in difficult and stressful circumstances over the last year.
Devaluation of the United States dollar and the financial crisis
In the last years, many staff expressed concern about the value of the pensions paid in euros given the decreasing value of the United States dollar and about the impact of the financial crisis on their pensions. Our Staff Union has significantly increased its effort by joining CCISUA (our Federation) in sending a global expert in pension matters to the meetings of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board. As the Board looks into the future of the Fund in detail, the Staff Union will, through CCISUA, continue to follow the subject and to support participants' representatives on the Board. Full information concerning UN pensions, including early retirement, can be found in the latest versions of the Regulations and Rules of the UNJSPF
Mandatory Age of Separation
At its 81 st session, the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) recommended to the General Assembly that a mandatory age of separation for staff members who entered the UN system before 1 January 2014 should be increased to 65 years, with effect from 1 January 2017. Staff who currently have the right to retire at 60 or 62 would retain that right if they wish.
Certain organizations had queried whether retirement at 65 would prevent rejuvenation, good performance and gender balance. However, Staff Unions showed that with the average UN entry age at 41 and a new and improved performance management system due to be put in place, changing the retirement age would have little impact. In addition, as noted in the ICSC report of 2015 (A/70/30) some members of the ICSC were not convinced that an earlier implementation date would hinder promotion of gender parity, diversity and rejuvenation, as argued by some organizations.
Our Federation, CCISUA, together with FICSA, started a campaign to remind the Secretary-General that in the past he showed support for an earlier implementation date.
In December 2015 the General Assembly decided that the mandatory age of separation for staff recruited before January 2014 should be raised by the organizations of the UN Common System to 65 years at the latest by 1 January 2018, taking into account the acquired rights of staff.
As the decision of the General Assembly implies that the implementation can take place from now, to be completed no later than 1 January 2018, Staff Unions initiated a survey to ascertain whether staff members would prefer to have the option sooner rather than later. The outcome of the survey showed clear staff support across all age ranges for an earlier implementation of 65.
To this end Staff Unions asked the SMC that the new policy be implemented on 1 January 2017, in line with the Secretary-General's earlier commitment. Unfortunately, Management was generally not supportive of Staff's proposal, arguing that this would have an impact on the 2016-17 budget and that therefore the 2018 implementation was more realistic.
After-Service Health Insurance (ASHI)
Staff members who were insured with Van Breda, may continue their health coverage after retirement and part of their premiums continues to be paid by the United Nations. For those insured with the Wiener Gebietskrankenkasse (WGKK), coverage ends on separation from service. However, it is possible to make arrangements for continuing coverage if you are staying in Austria as follows:
Coverage in WGKK will end on the staff member's separation from service. However, if he or she intends to remain in Austria without coverage by another insurer and wishes to continue coverage in WGKK, he or she has to apply within six weeks after the date of separation for self-insurance coverage ( Selbstversicherung) so that coverage can continue without interruption. The application for Selbstversicherung must be made personally at any Bezirksstelle or at the main office of WGKK. If the application for Selbstversicherung is not made within six weeks of separation but at a later date, the person will not be eligible for any benefits for the first six months of coverage.
Under certain conditions, staff members who separate on account of retirement or disability and survivors of staff members who die in service, may continue in WGKK as after-service coverage.
For detailed information regarding both schemes please contact the HRMS Social Security Office (Mail to: email@example.com).
Joint committee on Pension issues
In Vienna, we have asked the administration to agree to the establishment of a joint committee on pension issues, possibly as a subcommittee of the Joint Advisory Committee, to enable UNOV/UNODC staff, who are not represented on the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund because they are represented by the UN Secretariat, to remain updated with regard to the evolution of the Joint Staff Pension Fund. Such a joint committee would also advise staff and management on pension-related issues. We hope that a joint committee will be established before the end of 2010.
We need to continue to monitor the impact of the global financial crisis on our pensions. If anything can be learned from the history of staff-management relations in the United Nations system, it is that the Organization is not immune from global financial upheavals. When revenues fall in Member States, those who have, for some time now, been calling for efficiency measures within the United Nations will only become more vocal. The impact this had on pensionable remuneration in the 1990s, and the response of the staff, should serve as a lesson in the current climate.
We need to increase local capacity to monitor pension-related issues and be able to provide specific advice to our representatives on the Joint Staff Pension Board. However, we lack the kind of technical expertise and exposure to the substantive documents that other organizations have (staff and management of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have their own representatives on the Board). In addition, there is the need to inform staff about pension-related matters. We hope that this situation will improve with the establishment, as mentioned above, of a joint local committee.
United Nations system staff members who choose to retire in Austria, together with retirees of other Vienna-based Organizations within the UN system, may become members of the Association of Retired International Civil Servants, Austria (ARICSA) (mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org). The primary aim of the Association is to promote and protect the rights and the interests of retired international civil servants and their immediate family members. The Association holds two general meetings per year, at which pension, health insurance and other matters of interest are discussed. The President of the Association has an office at the VIC (room C0249B, Tel: 01 / 2600-25116).
An organization with much broader scope is the Federation of Associations of Former International Civil Servants (FAFICS) located in Geneva. In addition, there is a larger retiree organization in other European countries such as France, Italy and Switzerland. One of these is the Association of Former International Civil Servants (AAFI-AFICS). Membership in AFICS is open to active as well as retired staff of all organizations within the UN system. AFICS publishes a Bulletin in English and French several times a year to keep its members informed. Additional information is available with ARICSA's office.