SEVENTH ITEM ON THE AGENDA
Reports of the Programme, Financial
and Administrative Committee
Second report: Personnel questions
1. The Programme, Financial and Administrative Committee of the Governing Body met on 12 November 1998 and was chaired by Mr. Akao (Government, Japan, Chairperson of the Governing Body). Mr. Marshall (Employer, New Zealand) was the Reporter.
Statement by the Staff Union representative
2. The Chairperson of the Staff Union Committee referred to two points that the staff were particularly concerned about. The first was the creation of a childcare facility at the ILO, which the staff had been advocating for years. There were two reasons for this. In the first place, the availability of childcare facilities for working men and women with family responsibilities, which was provided for in the labour standards of the ILO itself, was very important if they were to reconcile their occupational activity with their family responsibilities and enjoy better working and living conditions. It was especially important as a means of promoting equality between men and women inasmuch as looking after young children was still looked upon essentially as a woman's job -- and not just for biological reasons such as breastfeeding. The Staff Union thanked the head of Personnel for the efforts she had made to advance this project, and the Director-General for having followed up on the consultations with the various departments in the Office. Because the Office was currently in a transitional period, Ambassador Somavía had been consulted on the project and had reacted favourably. The staff hoped that the project would be discussed by the Governing Body in plenary session, and that it would actually be implemented in the course of the coming year. The Staff Union therefore urged the members of the Governing Body to consider the need for making progress on this project as an important stage in the adoption of measures to promote equality between men and women in the ILO. The Governing Body itself had often expressed its support for policies to promote equality for women in the world of work and for their access to management posts. However, any genuine policy to promote equality would have to focus on a set of positive and specific measures, such as the availability of a crèche and other facilities for young mothers, if it was to achieve its aim. Mere corrective measures would not be enough. Though it accepted that any decision to establish a crèche, like other decisions, would have to wait until March 1999, the Staff Union did hope that the discussion on the subject in the Governing Body would be constructive.
3. The second important issue for the Staff Union concerned the document that the PFAC would be considering on the mobility of staff and its implications. As she had had occasion to say before the Committee in March 1998, the staff mobility policy could give rise to legitimate conflicts of interest between the Office and the personnel. For lack of time, it was impossible to comment on all the staff's concerns in this respect, and it might therefore be useful if those members of the Committee who so wished could have the opportunity of perusing the short document that the Staff Union had prepared and already discussed with the administration. There were in any case two points in the document submitted by the administration that called for further comment. One was in paragraph 38 which spoke of increased decentralization of human resources and which might be misinterpreted; though the staff was altogether in favour of the exercise of authority, it took this in the broad sense of the word, i.e. a whole set of elements related to competence, responsibility and openness. Seen in this light, authority -- unlike authoritarianism and the denial of individual rights, which could have no place in the ILO -- was conducive to motivation among the staff and as such had to be fully recognized. The other point concerned paragraph 36 (especially the French version of the document) which opened with a very unfortunate phrase whose tone was particularly regrettable; a few isolated cases should not be allowed to imply that a majority of the ILO's officials were not prepared to make every effort to help the Organization fulfil its mandate. Because this is such an important issue both for the personnel and for the members of the Governing Body, the Staff Union was trying to find the best way of passing on to the latter all the staff's concerns and proposals. In conclusion, the Staff Union informed the Committee that it was currently taking action to enable the ILO personnel to demonstrate its solidarity with the victims of the hurricane that had recently wrought so much havoc in several Central American and Caribbean countries, as it had for the victims of the floods in Bangladesh. It appealed to the members of the Governing Body to join the Staff Union in its action on behalf of the men, women and children of these countries.
Amendments to the Staff Regulations
(Ninth item on the agenda)
Amendments approved by the Director-General
Exceptions to the Staff Regulations
(Tenth item on the agenda)
(Twelfth item on the agenda)
Report of the Board of Trustees of the Special Payments Fund
Report of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund
4. The Committee had four documents(1) before it on the above items.
5. The representative of the Government of the United States commented on items 9 and 10. Regarding item 9 on amendments to the Staff Regulations, which had already been announced in an ILO circular in the "Personnel" series and to which he had no objection, he hoped that the Office would in future submit the text of amendments to the members of the Governing Body. Item 10, on the other hand (Exceptions to the Staff Regulations), was of some concern to his Government because of the risk that such an exception might be taken as setting a precedent. If this exception was accepted, the official concerned, who had previously changed what had initially been recognized as the country of his home for a country to which his close family had emigrated and where he had been assigned, would receive an education grant for his children of US$23,000. The Staff Regulations, however, provide for the payment of an education grant only when an official's duty station was not in the country of his home. It should be borne in mind that the education grant was introduced in the United Nations system to help reassimilate children into a staff member's home country, whereas in this case the children were going to school in Europe. Judging from the information at hand, the proposed exception to the Regulations should not be continued beyond the current academic year. Moreover, such exceptions should not be made in the future and should not be used as a precedent.
6. Mr. Blondel, speaking on behalf of the Workers, expressed their endorsement of the documents submitted under items 9, 10 and 12/1 of the agenda, on which they had no further comment to make. They also agreed with the recommendation contained in the document on item 10.
7. Mr. Marshall, speaking on behalf of the Employers, said that he appreciated the advice given by the Office in the documents it had submitted under items 9 and 10, which dealt with issues regarding which the Director-General had been authorized to act under delegated authority and the Office could proceed accordingly. This also applied to item 12, i.e. the two points covered by documents 12/1 and 12/2.
8. Mr. Blondel welcomed the Office paper containing the report of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund (GB.273/PFA/12/2). The document contained a very sanguine assessment of the situation in so far as it showed the total value of the Fund's assets, which were far from negligible and, for the first time since the beginning of the decade, showed a surplus which, though modest, was sufficient for it to be possible to envisage additional benefits. That was all to the good. On the other hand, the increase in the Fund's administrative costs raised some questions, especially as an argument had developed over who was to bear these costs. The Workers were very concerned about this. Another major source of concern was the transfer agreements between the Fund and the former USSR, Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR, since 1,500 officials were waiting for them to be ratified by the governments concerned so that former participants, who were apparently in financial straits, could receive the benefits due to them. He urged those governments, even if they were not present in the Committee at that moment, to resolve the situation by ratifying the transfer agreements. Finally, because he could not do otherwise, he noted the possibility of the WTO's withdrawal from the Fund, though he hoped it would not come to pass.
Report of the International Civil Service
(Eleventh item on the agenda)
9. The Committee had before it a paper reporting on recommendations of the ICSC submitted in its annual report to the United Nations General Assembly for 1998, and which had financial implications for the Office.
10. Mr. Marshall said that the Employer members supported the point for decision. He asked whether, at some point, advice could be provided by the Office on the methodology it applied to maintain staff language skills and how the proposed language bonus and associated payments recommended by the ICSC would operate, including the relationship of the latter to staff pay arrangements.
11. Mr. Blondel, on behalf of the Worker members, also endorsed the point for decision and noted that costs associated with the implementation by the Office of the relevant ICSC recommendations were already provided for in the budget for the current biennium.
12. The representative of the Government of Germany asked for clarification from the Office on the post adjustment index for Geneva, which according to recent information available to him had declined considerably.
13. In reply, a representative of the Director-General gave the Committee some preliminary information on current language training arrangements in the Office and undertook to provide further advice to the Employers' group as requested. She also indicated that the information provided by the representative of the Government of Germany did not accord with her understanding of the present situation.
Matters relating to the ILO
(Thirteenth item on the agenda)
Apportionment of the costs of the ILO Administrative Tribunal
14. The Committee had before it a document(2) containing information on how the costs of the ILO Administrative Tribunal were apportioned among the various organizations that had accepted its jurisdiction, pursuant to a request of the Employer members at its last meeting in March 1998.
15. Mr. Marshall noted that the very interesting information contained in the document showed just how important it was to clarify the situation so that the costs could be apportioned more satisfactorily, as the Employer members had suggested in March 1998. According to the document only 6.6 per cent of the cases dealt with by the Tribunal concerned ILO staff, yet the Organization paid 59 per cent of its running costs. That was neither equitable nor cost effective. Through the Administrative Tribunal the ILO was providing a very valuable service to 36 other organizations. Just as the session costs in respect of cases brought before the Tribunal were defrayed by the defendant organizations, the same rule should apply to the running costs. That would mean US$57,000 for the 1996-97 biennium and, assuming that there was not a dramatic increase in the number of cases involving ILO personnel, roughly the same amount in future. Consequently, the Employer members wished to suggest that a system be introduced for apportioning all the costs of the Tribunal among all the organizations that had accepted its jurisdiction. This might mean an average increase for each of some US$7,500 per year, which was not a large sum -- especially considering the quality of the service rendered. The savings that this would entail for the ILO (some US$530,000 in 1996-97) could very usefully be used in other important areas of activity -- particularly in the current zero growth situation. The Employer members felt that this suggestion should be considered very seriously.
16. Mr. Blondel said that the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO could not be looked upon as just another market mechanism. Perhaps because the administration of justice was a free public service in France, as it often was in other countries too, he found it difficult to accept that the ILO Administrative Tribunal should be seen as a commercial venture. It was much more than that, linked as it was to the ILO's reputation and the very extensive recognition of its competence and know-how and to the very spirit behind the Organization. The Worker members could not help feeling proud that other organizations used the Tribunal, thus showing their appreciation of the ILO. That was all to the moral credit of the Organization, and should not be turned into a financial credit. It might be a good idea to correct the situation to some extent, but it should not become a commercial operation.
17. The representative of the Government of the United States noted that, though he shared the Worker members' high regard for the Tribunal and attached much importance to the fact that other international organizations used it, the fact remained that the ILO was paying 59 per cent of its running costs. That was more than half a million dollars, which could certainly be used for other activities. Meanwhile, the session costs were apportioned on the basis of the number of cases brought before the Tribunal, and here the ILO paid well under 10 per cent. Apportioning the running costs was simply more fair, and it was highly unlikely that many international organizations would withdraw from the Tribunal's jurisdiction if asked to pay some US$7,000 each per year. Consequently, the United States Government supported the inclusion of this proposal in the Committee's agenda for March 1999 so that it could be considered by the International Labour Conference in June 1999.
18. Mr. Blondel said he was not against discussing the matter but repeated that although the Workers did not think everything should be free of charge and although it might be useful to see how the financial participation of other international organizations could be increased -- even if they were not necessarily in better financial shape than the ILO -- they were not out to "make a profit". Considering that, thanks to its excellent reputation, the ILO Tribunal was virtually a public service for those organizations, such an attitude would be particularly shocking.
19. The Chairperson of the Committee observed that, except for the few regional organizations that accepted the jurisdiction of the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO, any saving for the ILO would mean an increase in the cost to the other international organizations, which would come to the same thing for the governments financing them. He therefore wondered if there really was any point in changing the situation.
20. In the light of the views expressed by the members of the Committee, a representative of the Director-General (the Legal Adviser) confirmed that the ILO would be submitting a document to the March 1999 session of the Governing Body setting out various ways of better apportioning the costs of the Tribunal and that the international organizations concerned would in the meantime be consulted on the matter.
Recognition of the Tribunal's jurisdiction by the International Federation
of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
21. The Committee had before it a document(3) proposing that the Governing Body approve the recognition of the jurisdiction of the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, and a request from the latter that such recognition take effect as from 1 January 1999.
22. Mr. Marshall said that the Employer members welcomed the amendments to the Statute of the Tribunal, which meant that its jurisdiction could now be extended to the International Federation. They therefore supported the adoption of paragraph 6, subject to the addendum on the subject prepared by the Office.
23. Mr. Blondel said that the Worker members also welcomed the recognition of the Tribunal's jurisdiction by the International Federation and therefore supported the adoption of paragraph 6, as modified in the light of the Federation's request.
24. The Committee recommends that the Governing Body approve the recognition of the Tribunal's jurisdiction by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, with effect from 1 January 1999.
Other personnel questions
(Fourteenth item on the agenda)
Mobility of staff between the field and headquarters
25. The Committee had before it a document(4) summarizing the staff mobility policy and its implementation.
26. Mr. Marshall, speaking on behalf of the Employer members, expressed their appreciation of the paper, which he understood had been prepared on the basis of a request by Mr. Oechslin. The paper addressed an issue of considerable importance to the Organization, a fact which continued to be emphasized in the Committee on Technical Cooperation and in the related discussion on the implementation of the APP. There were a number of clear benefits for the ILO in having a mobility policy, the most significant being that it kept the Organization informed of the situation in the field and the needs of its constituents, that it enabled the Organization to respond more quickly and effectively to those needs by placing the "best and most appropriate resources" close to constituents, and that it led to improved staff competency and supported career development. Mobility, however, should not be an end in itself or a mechanical process that was rigidly applied. Nor should it be considered as the sole route to promotion. International experience had shown that such a policy had to be firm, but must also take into account individual circumstances; it should also be managed flexibly and on the basis of sound judgement. To do otherwise could result in poor staff morale, shortages in highly skilled work areas, extended vacancies, the potential loss of institutional knowledge and difficulty in recruiting high quality staff. The Office paper suggested that the manner in which the policy was currently being applied might give rise to some of these symptoms. A mobility policy was also an integral part of a broader personnel and human resource development policy aimed at improving the capacity and competency of staff to deliver quality services. A detailed policy review in this area, to provide the Organization with the ability to apply the strategic operation budget being contemplated for 2000-01, was therefore needed. The Personnel Department should have sufficient resources to enable it to strengthen its activities generally and in relation to its work on mobility. The Employers' group would be pleased to assist the Office in the review and in the development of its human resources policies and looked forward to receiving the report mentioned in paragraph 39 of the paper.
27. Mr. Blondel welcomed the consultation that had taken place following the Employers' request that this item be considered by the Governing Body. As far as the Worker members were concerned, there should not be the slightest doubt that they were very much in favour of the policy on mobility being implemented. This was essential for the Office to be really effective. For one reason, it was a key factor in the success of the Active Partnership Policy, though in practice the concept of staff mobility perhaps warranted further thought and long-term planning. At the same time, the Office should no longer be confronted with the problem of vacant posts. Paragraph 40 of the document, which indicated simultaneously that the policy was difficult to implement (which was true) and that a great deal had been achieved, was a bit confusing, and it might be well to remember the statement of the Staff Representative. As the document pointed out, the policy did encounter resistance at every level, and it was up to the Personnel Department to analyse the problems posed to see if they could be resolved. There were of course still questions to be answered. Was the policy feasible in the present circumstances? Should the Personnel Department not recruit the services of people with particular experience in this area? Should new incentives be considered? There was in any case an urgent need to tackle the problem, because the present situation was not at all satisfactory. The principles of the mobility policy must be accepted as a whole, but its implementation must be on a case-by-case basis. Certainly, nothing could be done without the staff or against it. Finally, it was interesting that, according to a number of earlier statements in the Committee, there should be such a pressing need for experts in the field of standards, which was so important. The Office visibly had many challenges before it, and the Worker members were ready to assist wherever they could.
28. The representative of the Government of Germany said that the Office's paper was very interesting and highlighted the problem clearly. Though some rigidity in matters of mobility was inevitable, there should not be too much, as sometimes happened. In the case of linguists and computer experts, for instance, was it really necessary that their prospects of promotion be dependent on a field posting from which they could not learn much? He also questioned the validity of the practice whereby periods of time spent in the field as ILO experts or associate experts were not recognized later on in the individual's career.
29. The representative of the Government of India, observing that the document prepared by the Office was very informative, noted that the cost of staff mobility needed to be looked at in the context of the Active Partnership Policy, which was supposed to improve the delivery of ILO technical services and advisory services to the constituents and whose success would depend on the quality and relevance of the services offered. The number and profile of the staff of the multidisciplinary teams were therefore crucial to the success of the APP. The main reason identified by the evaluation missions for the many long pending vacancies in the MDTs was the reluctance of headquarters staff to move to field offices, including MDTs. The Committee should give the Office clear directions to prepare and implement a staff mobility scheme for the success of the APP, as well as to improve the quality of services to the constituents.
30. The representative of the Government of the United Kingdom thanked the Office for its comprehensive paper. Mobility requirements were something that many members of the Government group were familiar with and they were therefore aware of the sensitivities involved. The United Kingdom was concerned about the difficulties faced by the ILO in promoting field assignments and agreed that this problem warranted urgent and strong action, as the report suggested. One key element was the linkage between field experience and promotion in the Organization, and his Government supported the policy described in paragraph 31. However, it questioned whether, as seemed to be suggested in paragraph 33, the introduction of new blood into the Organization was intrinsically undesirable. While it accepted that in an ideal world field positions should be filled by staff from headquarters, it could see some merit in the recruitment of skilled staff from outside the ILO to fill those positions, as that would almost by definition increase the percentage of senior staff who were genuinely mobile. Finally, the question of mobility was more than just one of transfers to and from the field. Staff needed to be mobile within headquarters as well. Perhaps, therefore, the Office might like to consider ways in which it could promote flexibility and lifelong learning within the Organization so as to produce a senior management cadre with the relevant skills and experience to take the ILO into the twenty-first century.
31. The representative of the Government of the United States thanked the Office for its very thoughtful paper. The mobility policy was part of the life blood of the Organization and was essential to prevent ossification at headquarters. Though some degree of flexibility was required in certain circumstances, such exceptions could not be allowed to undermine the policy as a whole. Regarding the prospect raised in paragraph 39 of providing additional entitlements for mobility beyond those outlined in paragraphs 22 to 24 which already existed for the common system, his Government would want to take a very hard look at both their cost and the need for them.
Geneva, 17 November 1998. (Signed) S. Marshall,
Point for decision: Paragraph 24.
1. GB.273/PFA/9, GB.273/PFA/10, GB.273/PFA/12/1 and GB.273/PFA/12/2.
3. GB.273/PFA/13/2 and GB.273/PFA/13/2(Add.1).