Judgment No. 4230
1. The decision of 2 February 2018, and Administrative Circular No. 2015/07 dated 6 March 2015, are set aside.
2. The FAO shall pay the complainant costs in the amount of 3,000 euros.
3. All other claims are dismissed.
The complainant challenges the decision to introduce a maximum length of employment under short-term appointments in breach of applicable rules on consultation with staff representatives.
complaint allowed; decision quashed; consultation; staff representative
The complaint is receivable insofar as the complainant is acting in his capacity as General Secretary of the UGSS and member of the SMCC and insofar as his complaint relates to the Organization’s alleged breach of its obligation to consult in good faith with the staff representative bodies prior to issuing the Circular.
staff representative; receivability ratione personae; receivability ratione materiae
The complaint is well founded. As recognized by the majority of the members of the Appeals Committee, the amendment to the proposed 55-month rule, that is, its immediate application rather than the originally proposed application, was “drastically different from the effects the originally proposed 55-month rule would have had”. Changing the proposal to provide for an immediate application resulted in a significant number of staff members holding a temporary appointment being affected. The majority of the members of the Appeals Committee observed that “[t]he measures taken by the Organization in the follow-up to the issuance of [the Circular], in particular the extensions of contracts until 31 July 2015 for those individuals who had already accumulated 55 months of aggregate service at the time of issuance of the [Circular], indicate[d] the type of effects and potential responses fully informed and open consultations on the amended 55-month rule could have anticipated”. The majority noted “that on 5 March 2015, the SMCC discussed the amended [...] 55-month rule. However, neither the [complainant] nor the Organization submit[ted] that these discussions were ‘consultations’, as required by Staff Rule 302.8.3”. The majority did not consider that the meeting of 5 March constituted a “proper and meaningful consultation”, and it noted also that the “UGSS, according to the SMCC summary record, had informed Management on 5 March 2015 that it ‘was not aware of how many temporary staff would be immediately affected by the new rule on the retroactive limitation of short-term employment to 55 months, and asked to receive the numbers of [the General Service staff] that would be touched and risk to be separated by the Organization’. This information, in the [majority’s] view, would indeed have been useful, in fact, it was crucial to assess the effects of the amended 55-month rule on existing short-term [...] staff [in the General Service category]. However the information was not made available.” The Tribunal finds these considerations to be correct.
The Tribunal finds that by informing the staff representative bodies, at the 5 March meeting, of the decision to proceed with the introduction of the new Policy through the publication of the Circular on 6 March, the Organization was essentially presenting them with a fait accompli. Contrary to the Director-General’s view that the consultation process preceding the issuance of the Circular was appropriate, the Tribunal finds that it was insufficient, as a proper consultation must allow a reasonable amount of time for the consulted body to discuss the issue, have its principal questions answered and provide reasoned advice or recommendations, and must also allow time for the deciding authority to take that advice into consideration prior to taking the decision. In Judgment 380, under 21, the Tribunal stated: “Where there is only a simple obligation to consult, the decision-maker’s duty is to listen or at most to exchange views. The object of the consultation is that [she or] he will make the best decision and the assumption is that [she or] he will not succeed in doing that unless [she or] he has the benefit of the views of the person consulted. The object of negotiation on the other hand is compromise. This object would be frustrated if either party began with the determination not to make any concession in any circumstances, just as the object of consultation would be frustrated if the decision-maker began with a determination not to be influenced by anything that might be said to [her or] him. On both these hypotheses there would be a lack of good faith.”
good faith; consultation; staff representative
The complainant seeks an order that the FAO follows the consultative process as set out in relevant Staff Rules and procedures before issuing a revised version of the Circular. While the FAO has a duty to consult properly with the staff representative bodies in the event that it decides to issue a new Circular, it is not within the Tribunal’s competence to make the requested order.
competence of tribunal; consultation; staff representative
The Tribunal finds that the complainant has proved that the Organization showed bad faith by denying the UGSS its right to be consulted, in accordance with the Recognition Agreement and the Staff Regulations and Rules [...]. Presenting the SMCC with a pre-determined decision instead of providing for a proper consultation, and then later choosing to deal with the affected staff members on a case-by-case basis undermined the reputation, competence, and authority of the SRBs. However, according to consistent case law, the complainant, acting as a staff representative, is not entitled to an award of moral damages (see Judgments 3258, under 5, 3522, under 6, and 3671, under 5).
ILOAT Judgment(s): 3258, 3522, 3671
moral injury; staff representative; bad faith