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UN Staff in Geneva Strike Over Pay Cuts and Austerity Agenda

16 March 2018
After months of stalled negotiations over the International Civil Service Commission's failed salary reform process and wider issues of austerity and deteriorating working conditions, UN Staff in Geneva have voted to hold a rare Strike action today, March 16th.

The vote to take action delivered an overwhelming majority with 89% in favour of the Strike, despite attempts made by UN Management to intimidate workers.

As votes were still being collected, Director General of the United Nations in Geneva Office, Michael Møller, sent an email to all staff claiming that "staff
Regulations and Rules provide no basis for staff members to be absent from work because of a work stoppage or strike.”

The right to strike is ensured by a range of International Treaties and is enshrined under Article Eight of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Political Rights as well as by the recognition of the right to take industrial action linked to ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association.

Furthermore, the UN and ILO Administrative Tribunals have, for decades, affirmed the right to strike and other forms of legitimate industrial action for International Civil Servants, the latter declaring in Judgement 615 that "as a matter of principle, a strike is lawful."

Rosa Pavanelli, PSI General Secretary, expressed her solidarity with the workers on strike.

It is frankly astonishing to see the United Nations so clearly undermine these fundamental rights which the labour movement has fought for over a century to achieve. It is our firm belief that the United Nations, as the primary global advocate for Human Rights, needs to lead by example. Failure to do so will lead to accusations of hypocrisy and could create lasting damage to the organisation's reputation.

In a letter to United Nations Secretary General, she wrote:

We implore you to publicly affirm the right of United Nations workers to take part in industrial action, as proposed by the Coordinating Committee for Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA). We hope that you will commit to implementing a coherent system of collective bargaining and respect for trade union rights across the UN System.

We also request that you ensure that Staff concerns regarding the International Civil Service Commission and its flawed processes are swiftly addressed to avoid further deterioration in relations between unions and management.

The International Civil Service Commision, which determines conditions of United Nations employment, recently implemented incoherant cuts to salaries of up to 25%.

On top of these cuts, the United Nations is increasingly relying on short term contracts, consultancies and unpaid interns. This contingent workforce now makes up over a third of total staffing.

Public Services International and our affiliates stand with International Civil Servants, whose dedication to service often sees them deployed to dangerous crises across the world.

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