ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

268th Session
Geneva, March 1997


Reports of the Programme, Financial and
Administrative Committee

Second report: Personnel questions


Statement by the staff representative

1. The Chairman of the Staff Union Committee stressed that to implement the considerable programme adopted by the PFA, the ILO needed a competent and motivated staff, capable of providing high-level services which lived up to the needs and expectations of its constituents. Compared with the tremendous efforts made to make programmes more relevant to changes in society, personnel policy had the air of a "poor relation" and has seriously dropped behind. Henceforth, the Office should adopt a genuine human resources management which was both rational and forward-looking. Ways to improve selection and recruitment procedures should be a subject of general discussion and pave the way for a "human resources" management, rather than "staff administration" as practised at present.

2. In view of the importance it attached to this matter, the Staff Union Committee had actively participated in many discussions with the Administration. During these discussions, it had stressed the need to look thoroughly into the current shortcomings, for example the delays in the recruitment and selection procedures, in order to identify appropriate solutions. However, the measures envisaged by the Administration (GB.268/PFA/8 and Add.1) were fragmentary and failed to resolve present problems. Indeed, these problems were symptomatic of much wider unrest, caused by the lack of an efficient staff policy. In a document: "Recruitment and appointment procedures: position of the Staff Union" (which he wished to see annexed to the present speech and distributed to members of the Governing Body), the Staff Union gave the history of the Selection Board; analysed the Director-General's proposed reforms since 1995, whilst explaining the Staff Union's concerns, and put forward the Staff Union's proposals.

3. The Chairman noted that the changes proposed under paragraph 9 of the Administration document, which took little account of the Staff Union's positions, did not guarantee the respect of competence, independence, fairness and transparency in internal competitions and external recruitment, transfers and promotions. It turned on its head the entire system of recruitment and selection, narrowing the scope of the basic criteria of competence, fairness and transparency which normally applied to recruitment in the international civil service. This would amount to a step backwards and restore, to a certain extent, the situation which had led to the creation of the Selection Board in the first place.

4. The Staff Union representative stressed that the amendments to the Staff Regulations contained in the annex to the Administration's document worried him and that they had not been discussed at the Administrative Committee in accordance with established procedures. In the event that these changes would be introduced through circulars, for a fixed period, he requested that they should take account of the Staff Union's positions and that the criteria for evaluating the results of these changes should be clearly established -- to give at least the opportunity to all the parties to check the application of these changes and their repercussions.

5. The Chairman also deeply regretted the decisions taken by the United Nations General Assembly, on the recommendation of the ICSC, in its resolution 51/216 of 18 December 1996 (document GB.268/PFA/10), which demonstrated yet again its total disdain of the staff in the international civil service. He requested that the ILO Administration, in consultation with the Staff Union, and bearing in mind its mandate, should fulfil its role of promoting employment conditions of international civil servants. The Organization should in general pay heed that the reforms of the bodies in the common system, as well as its own, did not give rise to feelings of unease, intimidation and frustration.

6. The Staff Union had repeatedly pointed out to the Administration that there was a need to have broader-based and in-depth discussions to put in place a genuine personnel management policy. This would help to identify better the qualifications required by the ILO, as well as its existing abilities and potential, and to develop career and training plans to allow the staff to adjust to new requirements. In order to promote its image of quality and make its presence felt, the Organization should invest in capitalizing on its human resources. This would require, amongst other things:

7. Such a system would allow for a speedy and effective filling of posts, and take into account staff qualifications and aspirations and lead to a better use of human and financial resources. However, when considering the above elements, the Chairman felt that there was serious flaws. It was essential that the personnel department be equipped with all the technical, human and financial means to match the challenges, expectations and goals set for the Organization. This was the only way that the ILO could fulfil its mission to meet the expectation of its constituents. He also pointed out that the ILO would enhance its credibility if it adhered to the principle it advocated for member States, that industrial relations be discussed and agreements reached through collective bargaining.

8. The Staff Union Committee therefore hoped that the Governing Body would mandate the Director-General to embark upon discussions on a comprehensive personnel policy and present proposals reflecting agreements between the Staff Union Committee and Administration, if possible, at its 270th Session in November 1997.

Amendments to the Staff Regulations
(Eighth item on the agenda)

9. The Committee had before it a paper(1) describing changes in recruitment and selection procedures which the Director-General was proposing to implement, with a view to speeding up the process and improving its effectiveness. After two years of discussions, it had still not been possible to reach agreement with the Staff Union on the new procedures but a compromise had been reached whereby they could be introduced on a trial basis by way of circulars, it being understood that meanwhile discussions would go forward on comprehensive personnel policy issues, including staff planning and career development.

10. Mr. Marshall, speaking on behalf of the Employer members, noted that the changes in the selection procedures were consistent with the Director-General's move towards greater delegation of responsibility to programme managers and that their objective was the timely selection of high quality staff. Accordingly the Employers' group endorsed the proposals, noting the proposed two-year trial period.

11. Mr. Gray, speaking on behalf of the Worker members, considered that the matter was an important one which had been the subject of considerable controversy between the ILO management and the Staff Union. He noted that the Director-General was not satisfied with the way existing procedures as set out in the Staff Regulations were working and was proposing changes in four areas: increasing the maximum limit for temporary fixed-term contracts from two to four years; extending the scope for use of direct selection, notably for internal transfers at the same grade and for recruitment of young Professionals; increasing the role of the relevant programme manager in the selection process; and introducing new procedures for external recruitment under which the selection of candidates would be the joint responsibility of the relevant technical department and of the Personnel Department, with the role of the Selection Board being limited to an oversight role. He noted also that consultations between management and Staff Union had not resulted in agreement and that the Union had strong objections to the proposed changes. The Workers' group wished to underline two aspects of the view of the Staff Union. Firstly, the Union recognized the need for change, but did not agree with the management's analysis of the reasons for current deficiencies nor with the proposed solutions, and therefore wished to continue the dialogue. Secondly, the Union considered that the Selection Board provided important guarantees of independence, fairness and transparency in selection procedures. In this connection, the proposal to introduce the changes on an interim basis for two years was something of a compromise. The Workers' group would be able to approve the recommendation before the Committee on three conditions: firstly, that the Committee should receive a progress report at its March 1998 meeting; secondly, that the modalities for evaluation at the end of the trial period be worked out with the Staff Union; and thirdly, that the introduction of the new procedures on a trial basis should not interrupt the dialogue with the Union on the issues involved, and especially that the consultations on comprehensive personnel policy issues should be pursued vigorously.

12. The representative of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran supported the proposal before the Committee, on the understanding that consultations with the Staff Union would continue on the issues of staff planning and human resource development.

13. The representative of the Government of Sweden expressed concern about the proposal that officials recruited on temporary fixed-term contracts under article 4.2(e) should after four years find themselves barred from further extension of their contracts and disqualified from taking part in competitions for the following 12 months; he requested some clarification as to the rationale behind this proposal.

14. The representative of the Government of Japan welcomed the document submitted by the Director-General. He praised in particular the proposal to reduce the length of the selection process through greater use of direct selection, and expressed the hope that efforts to guarantee fairness and transparency and to rectify imbalances of geographical distribution would continue. The increased role of the programme manager should help in evaluating candidates. On the other hand, overall personnel management needed to be in the hands of the Personnel Department, which needed an overall picture to ensure consistent management and to develop medium- and long-term recruitment and promotion plans. His Government supported the proposal on the understanding that the situation would be reviewed at the end of the trial period, and he also requested that interim reports be submitted to the Governing Body during that period.

15. A representative of the Director-General (the Director of the Personnel Department), said that the Office could go along with the three points made by Mr. Gray. In response to the question raised by the representative of the Government of Sweden, she explained that the idea behind the proposal to disqualify officials from either being extended or participating in competitions following temporary fixed-term contracts of up to four years was to establish an effective barrier to back-door entry. Other procedures were foreseen for appointments intended to be of longer duration. The Union had difficulty in accepting the idea of temporary contracts of up to four years, and this restriction was intended to establish the administration's good faith in the negotiations.

16. The Committee recommends that the Governing Body authorize the Director-General to promulgate the changes set out in the appendix to this report by the issue of circulars and to suspend the application of the relevant provisions of articles 4.2(e) and 4.2(f) and Annex I of the Staff Regulations for a trial period of two years.


Composition and structure of the staff
(Ninth item on the agenda)

17. The Committee took note of a paper(2) containing statistical information on the composition and structure of the ILO staff for the period 1 January to 31 December 1996, submitted in accordance with the practice established at the 184th Session of the Governing Body.

Decisions of the United Nations General Assembly on the
recommendations of the International Civil Service Commission
(Tenth item on the agenda)

18. The spokesman for the Worker members expressed deep concern at the fact that the General Assembly had rejected the recommendations of the ICSC concerning a revised scale of salaries for Professional and higher category staff that would have given a meaningful increase in Professional salaries. Instead it had approved only a minimal increase. This decision was arbitrary and capricious and inconsistent with its previous decision concerning conditions of service of General Service staff, when it had approved ICSC recommendations to reduce salary scales. It appeared that the General Assembly accepted recommendations which had a negative impact on staff and rejected those which had a positive impact. Regarding the question of a single post adjustment classification for Geneva, to include conditions in neighbouring France, the Workers' group reiterated their strong opposition to this concept. The legal, political and technical problems to which the ILO's Legal Adviser had drawn attention were very important; however even more important was the question of natural justice. The Workers' group encouraged the administration to ensure that the concept of a single post adjustment classification for Geneva be buried. As for the General Assembly's interest in a system of performance awards or bonuses, the Workers' group did not share the Assembly's enthusiasm on this point and hoped that the Director-General's consultations with the staff would result in an appropriate conclusion on this issue.

19. Lastly, the Worker members felt that, in view of the attitude of the General Assembly towards the conditions of service of staff in the United Nations system, its request that the staff bodies resume participation in the work of the International Civil Service Commission could not be expected to be taken seriously by those to whom it was addressed.

20. The spokesman of the Employers' group agreed that while performance appraisal was an integral part of good human resources management policy, the ILO Governing Body should have some idea of the type of system and of the criteria being considered. He requested that such information be provided before the matter progressed much further.

Pensions questions
(Eleventh item on the agenda)

Report of the United Nations General Assembly on the
report of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board

21. The Committee noted an Office paper(3) on the recommendations of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Board to the United Nations General Assembly in December 1996. The matters dealt with included the comprehensive review of pensionable remuneration and the development of a common scale of staff assessment in consultation with the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), the actuarial evaluation of the Fund at 31 December 1995, the investments of the Fund, and the transfer agreements between the Fund and the former USSR, Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR.

22. The General Assembly had adopted the recommendations of the Board in resolution 51/217 of 18 December 1996 and had approved a revised scale of pensionable remuneration for the Professional and higher categories based on the common staff assessment scale, effective 1 January 1997.

Report of the Administrative Board of the ILO Staff Pensions Fund

23. The Committee examined a paper(4) which transmitted the report of the 103rd Session of the Administrative Board of the ILO Staff Pensions Fund. The matters dealt with included the accounts and investments of the Fund at 31 December 1996, the actuarial evaluation at 30 June 1996, future funding requirements, and simplification of the Board's proceedings. The report contained a proposal to eliminate the Administrative Board and transfer the responsibility for the management of the Fund directly to the ILO.

24. The Programme, Financial and Administrative Committee recommends that the Governing Body propose to the International Labour Conference, at its 85th Session (June 1997), the adoption of the following resolution:

25. The Chair noted that with this resolution the ILO fully and formally accepted responsibility for the payment of pensions for as long as would be necessary.

Matters relating to the Administrative Tribunal of the ILO
(Twelfth item on the agenda)

26. The Committee had before it an Office paper(5) on the composition of the Administrative Tribunal.

27. Mr. Gray, noting that the Tribunal at present was composed of one woman and six men, and that all but one of the terms were due to expire either this year or next, expressed the concern of the Worker members at the gender imbalance and asked the Director-General to do what he could to redress this imbalance by proposing more women for appointment to the Tribunal.

28. The Committee recommends to the Governing Body that it submit to the International Labour Conference, for adoption at its forthcoming session, the following resolution:

Geneva, 26 March 1997.

(Signed) C. Gray,

Points for decision:

1. GB.268/PFA/8.

2. GB.268/PFA/9.

3. GB.268/PFA/11/1.

4. GB.268/PFA/11/2.

5. GB.268/PFA/12.

6. GB.262/PFA/14.

Updated by VC. Approved by NdW. Last update: 26 January 2000.