The Staff Union works to ensure that staff concerns are taken into consideration in the establishment of a fair and independent internal justice system.
Administration of justice in the United Nations
A new system of Administration of Justice for the UN Secretariat and the Funds and Programmes has been functioning since 1 July 2009. The new system is already demonstrating that it is capable of addressing some of the problems that characterized the previous system. Judgments of both UNDT and UNAT are being delivered relatively quickly and a considerable improvement on the previous situation. There are not too many cases originating from Vienna so far but this is not an indication that problems do not exist. More likely, staff need to have access to reliable legal assistance in order to be able to enter into a litigation process. The experience of the Staff Union in Vienna is that staff have issues and concerns that may require recourse to internal justice but many staff are hesitant to proceed because they are not sure they have a strong case. Concerns from staff mostly relate to: performance issues; appointment, selection and promotion; harassment and discrimination; and dispute on benefits and condition of services.
Paulina Analena, Vice-President of the UNSU Vienna, delivered a statement as Vice-President of SMCC on the 1 July 2010 in an event marking the first anniversary of the new system. She stated:
"Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen: in summary, the new system has indeed changed many aspects of life in the UN for the better.The system is independent, largely transparent, mostly fair and much more efficient. But we cannot rest on our laurels: there remains work to be done, and the benefits for us all are clear: a more harmonious and productive workplace, which respects and practises the very principles upon which our wonderful Organization is based. For these reasons, we wish to express our support for this new system and call for it to be even more fully implemented." Full text of her statement
While the Staff Union recognizes the positive elements of the new system, we need to highlight the problems that still remain:
- the limited resources available for staff representation and the general concern with absence of the equal legal representation opportunities for staff;
- the suspension of action has not been granted consistently across the UNDT;
- there are some apparent inconsistencies in the judgments and court procedures in the different locations;
- strong concerns on lack of recognition of the due process rights and lack of legal counsel for staff in disciplinary actions and investigations remain.
In relation to the legal assistance for staff, the Staff Council reviewed the draft ST/SGB on incentives to enable and encourage staff volunteers to assist the Office of Staff Legal Assistance. The Council provided comments to OHRM in New York stating that one of the main concerns of staff who had volunteered in the past and continue to do so, has been partly addressed: release time. However, this is still subject to the decision of head of department or office and should take into account the successful delivery of the mandates. This makes it still very difficult for a manager to authorize the release and for the staff to ask for it. In addition, the Council considered some of the incentives to be fine while some others are not really incentives.