Speakers Call for Consistency, Alignment with Global Marketplace Realities, as Fifth Committee Takes up Proposed Changes to Staff Benefits, Allowances

Changes to salaries and benefits throughout the United Nations common system must be fair and in touch with global marketplace realities, speakers in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) said today as it took up the yearly report of the International Civil Service Commission.

Japan’s representative said the common system must be kept transparent and sustainable through constant review. Paying respect to the Commission’s role in that regard, he emphasized that its decisions, along with those of the General Assembly, should be fully implemented in a timely manner. The rationale for additional resource requirements must be closely examined, he said, noting that the Commission’s recommendations will require significant resources that ultimately originate from taxpayers.

The representative of the United States, expressing concern over proposals for new staff allowances and increases to existing ones, stressed that her delegation will carefully consider the justification and methodologies behind them – including how they fit into broader ongoing United Nations reform efforts. Noting that three years ago the General Assembly streamlined compensations and reduced certain elements that had ballooned unjustifiably, she said any change to the conditions of service for United Nations staff must be based on evidence.

The representative of the European Union said the bloc looks forward to reviewing recommendations on how to ensure implementation of consistent policies and commons standards across the system. This remains essential to maintaining a level playing field for staff and ensuring the most efficient use of the Organization’s resources, she said.

Patricia Nemeth, Vice-President for Conditions of Service, speaking on behalf of Ian Richards, President of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations, supported the introduction of an end of service grant for staff on fixed term contracts whose contracts expire without renewal. This is critical given all the reforms and restructuring exercises taking place, she said.

The representative of the Russian Federation supported all the Commission’s recommendations, including the end of service grant. And like his United States counterpart, he expressed concern that bonuses paid to World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) staff undermine the common system.

Both Egypt’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, and Uganda’s representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the Commission’s attention to the welfare of staff with disabilities, as well as plans to improve the Inspira recruitment platform and the United Nations careers portal to make them more accessible to applicants with disabilities.

Brett Fitzgerald, President of the International Civil Servants’ Associations, conveyed his members’ concerns about the status of staff/management relations in several common system organizations, stating that the issue merits further discussion.

Kingston P. Rhodes, the outgoing Chair of the Geneva based Commission, introduced its annual report for 2018. Among other things, he recalled that in mid 2016, the Commission decided to recommend the establishment of end of service severance pay, after which the General Assembly, unable to reach consensus, requested a comprehensive analysis of the effects of such a scheme. The Commission’s findings and recommendations, based on a study of prevailing practices in other regional and international organizations, appear in the report.

Chandru Ramanathan, Acting Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, introduced the Secretary General’s statement on the administrative and financial implications of the Commission’s decisions and recommendations. Babou Sene, Vice Chair of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), introduced its related report.

Earlier in the day, the Committee filled 17 vacancies in three subsidiary bodies � the ACABQ, Committee on Contributions and the Investments Committee � as well as the Commission. Among them, it elected Larbi Djacta (Algeria) as the Commission’s next Chair by a secret ballot, during which he received the majority of votes, 97, from a total of 193 ballots cast. His four year term of office will begin on 1 January 2019.

The Fifth Committee will meet again on Thursday, 8 November at 10 a.m. to take up reports on the Capital Master Plan, United Nations pensions system, human resources management and Joint Inspection Unit internship programmes.

Appointments to Fill Vacancies in Subsidiary Organs, Other Appointments

The Committee considered 17 vacancies in three subsidiary bodies and the International Civil Service Commission . It had before it the Secretary General’s notes on the appointment of members of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) (documents A/73/101/Rev.1 and A/73/4); Committee on Contributions (documents A/73/102 and A/C.5/73/5); Investments Committee (documents A/73/103 and A/C.5/73/6); and International Civil Service Commission (documents A/73/104, A/C.5/73/7 and A/C.5/73/7/Add.1).

Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ)

Delegates first turned their attention to five three year slots on the 16 member Advisory Committee, which plays a crucial role in helping the Fifth Committee examine the Organization’s budget and numerous management initiatives.

The Committee recommended by acclamation the appointments of Yves A�ric Ahoussougbemey (Benin) and Makiese Kinkela Augusto (Angola) from the Group of African States; Ihor Humennyi (Ukraine) from the Group of Eastern European States; and Conrod Hunte (Antigua and Barbuda) from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States. They will serve three-year terms starting 1 January 2019.

Amjad Qaid Al Kumaim (Yemen) from the Group of Asia Pacific States was selected by a secret ballot, during which he received the majority of votes, 124, out of a total of 191 ballots cast. He was then recommended for a three year term beginning on 1 January 2019.

Committee on Contributions

For the 18 member Committee on Contributions, which advises the Assembly on the distribution of the Organization’s expenses among Member States, delegates recommended by acclamation the appointment or reappointment of five people for three year terms starting 1 January 2019.

They included Robert Ngei Mule (Kenya) from the Group of African States; Syed Yawar Ali (Pakistan) and Toshiro Ozawa (Japan) from the Group of Asia Pacific States; TAnis Saar (Estonia) from the Group of Eastern European States; and Brett Dennis Schaefer (United States) from the Group of Western European and other States.

The nomination of an additional member, to fill a remaining vacancy from the Group of Eastern European States emerging on 31 December 2018, will take place at a later date.

Investments Committee

For the nine member United Nations Investments Committee, which advises the Secretary General on investment strategy and reviews the investments of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund at its quarterly meetings, the Fifth Committee recommended by acclamation one member, Keiko Honda (Japan), for appointment as a regular member for a three year term beginning 1 January 2019.

International Civil Service Commission

The Fifth Committee then turned its attention to the five pending vacancies on the 15 member International Civil Service Commission, an independent expert body established by the Assembly to regulate and coordinate service conditions for thousands of staff throughout the United Nations common system. The full Commission meets twice a year.

The Fifth Committee recommended by acclamation four members for appointment or reappointment to a four year term of office beginning 1 January 2019: Andrew Gbebay Bangali (Sierra Leone) and Ali Kurer (Libya) from the Group of African States; Boguslaw Winid (Poland) from the Group of Eastern European States; and Marie Francoise Bechtel (France) from the Group of Western European and other States.

Carleen Gardner (Jamaica) from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States was selected by a secret ballot, during which she received the majority of votes, 103, from a total of 193 ballots cast. She will be reappointed and begin a four year term beginning on 1 January 2019.

The Fifth Committee then turned to the designation of the Chairman of the Commission. Larbi Djacta (Algeria) was selected by a secret ballot, during which he received the majority of votes, 97, from a total of 193 ballots cast. He will begin a four year term of office beginning on 1 January 2019.

United Nations Common System

In the afternoon, the Committee turned its attention to the agenda item titled United Nations common system.

KINGSTON P. RHODES, Chair of the International Civil Service Commission, addressing the Fifth Committee for the last time in that capacity, introduced the Commission’s annual report for 2018 (document A/73/30). Summarizing its contents, he first discussed the Commission’s review of pensionable remuneration, which was prompted by the need to realign it with a newly introduced salary scale. Several issues were examined, he said, including options for recalculating pensionable remuneration, the incidence of income inversion whereby some General Service staff received more pensionable remuneration than Professional staff, and a comparability study of the pension schemes of the United States federal civil service and the United Nations, among other things. He said that, in paragraphs 46 and 47, and in annexes II and III, the report contains the Commission’s conclusions and recommendations as well as a revised common scale of staff assessment and a revised pensionable remuneration scale.

He recalled that in mid 2016, the Commission decided to recommend the establishment of end of service severance pay, after which the General Assembly, unable to reach consensus, requested a comprehensive analysis of the effects of such a scheme. The Commission’s findings and recommendations, based on a study of prevailing practices in other regional and international organizations, is found in paragraphs 48 to 65 and annex IV. On children’s and secondary dependant’s allowances, the Commission decided to maintain the current methodology, while keeping it under review. It also reviewed new levels for the allowances and made recommendations contained in paragraphs 105 to 106 of the report.

Turning to conditions of service at duty stations with extreme hardship conditions, he said the Commission decided to introduce some flexibility under existing modalities for staff members with eligible dependants to either take their families with them to D and E hardship duty stations and receive installation dependent allowances or to not take their families and receive a reduced amount of the non family service allowance. Details of the Commission’s decisions appear in paragraphs 156 and 157. On the evolution of the United Nations/United States net remuneration margin, he said that margin, on the basis of the latest data, has been revised for 2018 from 114.4 to 113.0. On the base/floor salary scale, he said that in view of the movement of comparator scales in 2018 under the General Schedule and tax changes in the United States, the Commission is recommending a 1.83 per cent increase effective 1 January 2019, implemented as usual with a commensurate reduction in post adjustment multiplier points, resulting in no loss and no gain in net take home pay.

On other issues, he noted the Commission’s decision to approve the inclusion of a workplace diversity component in its human resources management framework, reflecting a growing recognition of the importance of diversity and gender in the Organization. The Commission also decided to carry out a review of post adjustment methodologies with the goal of implementing changes that would enhance the accuracy, stability and predictability of any changes to methodology that might result from the review. Concluding his presentation, he said the Commission will update the Fifth Committee next year on the progress it is making to review salary survey methodologies for locally recruited staff.

CHANDRU RAMANATHAN, Acting Controller, Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts, introduced the statement submitted by the Secretary General in accordance with rule 153 of the rules of procedure of the General Assembly (document A/C.5/73/2) on the administrative and financial implications of the decisions and recommendations contained in the report of the International Civil Service Commission for 2018. The statement particularly looks at the programme budget of the United Nations for the biennium 2018 2019 and the upcoming proposed programme budget for 2020, he said. In the interest of providing comprehensive information, the statement also describes the implications for the budgets of peacekeeping operations for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 periods.

BABOU SENE, Vice-Chair of the ACABQ, introduced its eponymous report (document A/73/446) and noted the Commission’s decisions and recommendations relating to five issues would have financial implications for the programme budget of the United Nations for the 2018 2019 biennium, and for 2020, of $9.725 million for each of those two periods. In addition, the related additional resource requirements for peacekeeping operations are estimated at $3.55 million for the 1 July 2018 to the 30 June 2019 period and $7.098 million, for the 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020 financial period. The Advisory Committee notes significant differences between the annual 2020 cost implications for the Secretariat, as estimated by the Secretariat, compared with the Commission’s estimates. The Advisory Committee trusts more detailed explanations for the differences will be provided to the Assembly.

PATRICIA NEMETH, Vice-President for Conditions of Service, speaking on behalf of Ian Richards, President of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations, expressed support for the increase in pensionable remuneration proposed jointly by the International Civil Service Commission and the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund Board. The proposal brings the United Nations remuneration closer to the United States comparator and closes the gap between G and P level staff. She also expressed support for the proposed measures for child allowance. This ensures that the amount is updated correctly in accordance with the methodology. This update was delayed extensively during the consideration of the earlier compensation review. She also supported the introduction of an end of service grant for staff on fixed term contracts whose contracts expire without renewal. This is critical given all the reforms and restructuring exercises taking place, she said.

She also welcomed an allowance for staff who choose not to bring their families to D and E duty stations deemed safe as these stations are isolated and lack basic health care. The fact that many staff already choose not to bring their families, while paying for a second home out of pocket, shows the importance of this allowance in order to attract staff to field locations, she said. Noting the progress in the much needed review of the post adjustment system, she welcomed improvements to operational rules and the statistical methodology. After 42 years, the Commission’s operations need to be reviewed and staff, in line with modern national systems, should have full negotiating rights to determine conditions of service. While appreciative of the Commission’s efforts during the previous session to build consensus, this needs to be enshrined more solidly so that the International Civil Service Commission becomes fit for purpose in the twenty first century, she said.

BRETT FITZGERALD, President of the International Civil Servants’ Associations, said the Joint Staff Pension Fund is perhaps one of the strongest pillars of the common system. Although many recommendations proposed by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) were accepted by the Board, some others failed to adequately recognize its inter agency nature. It would have been more helpful to ensure professional care in obtaining sufficient evidence to support the conclusions drawn. A comparison of the governance structure of the Pension Board with that of other pension boards could have rendered the audit more useful. He further expressed his members’ concerns about the status of staff/management relations in several common system organizations, stating that this issue merits further discussion.

KARIM SAMIR ISMAIL ALSAYED (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, emphasized that all United Nations staff serving under similar conditions should receive fair and equal treatment across the common system. The Group of 77 intends to follow up on issues raised in the Commission’s report during informal consultations and to examine its recommendations with a view to ensuring that the Organization remains a socially responsible employer. He noted the Commission’s efforts to update the human resources management framework to ensure that the Organization’s workforce reflects equitable geographical distribution and gender balance, among other things. Much remains to be done in that regard across the entire system, he said, encouraging the Commission to devote attention to that issue. He went on to welcome the Commission’s attention to the welfare of the staff with disabilities, as well as plans to improve the Inspira recruitment platform and the United Nations careers portal to make them more accessible to applicants with disabilities.

CAROLINE NALWANGA MAGAMBO (Uganda), speaking on behalf of the African Group and associating herself with the Group of 77, holds in high regard the conditions of service for persons living with disabilities and notes the Commission’s work in promoting the welfare of such persons. She welcomed plans to improve the Inspira recruitment platform and the United Nations careers portal in order to make them more accessible to applicants with disabilities. The African Group has advocated for gender parity over the years within the United Nations system and is grateful for the Secretary General’s attention to the issue. Calling for gender parity plans to be developed within all Secretariat entities, she said the Group would keenly follow progress towards gender parity for Africans in senior level positions.

More efforts are needed to support equitable geographical representation and the African Group calls for a more strategic, coordinated and sustained approach in addressing this long standing imbalance, she said. In addition, the African Group will seek more information on how the following issues will benefit staff: changes in the pensionable remuneration for both categories of staff; end of service grant; remuneration of the Professional and high categories of staff; children’s and secondary dependants’ allowances; and conditions of service in the field for hardship locations classified in the D and E categories.

LAURA KIM DEMETRIS of the European Union said the bloc looks forward to reviewing recommendations on how to ensure the implementation of consistent policies and common standards that avoid discrepancies in the terms and conditions of employment across the common system. This remains essential to maintaining a level playing field for staff and ensuring the most efficient use of the Organization’s resources, she said, emphasizing that European Union member States expect to see all General Assembly decisions on the Commission’s recommendations implemented in full and with no undue delay.

CHERITH NORMAN-CHALET (United States), recalling her delegation’s long standing support for the Commission’s work, said any change to the conditions of service for United Nations staff must be evidence based and in touch with global marketplace realities. Three years after the General Assembly’s adoption of resolution 70/244, which streamlined compensations and reduced certain elements that had ballooned unjustifiably, the Committee now must consider proposals on new allowances as well as increases to existing allowances. The United States is concerned with those increases, she said, emphasizing that it will carefully consider the rationale, justification and methodologies behind the proposals before the Committee, including how they fit into broader ongoing United Nations reform efforts and previous decisions on rationalizing conditions of service.

She went on to say that her delegation takes exception to recent salary bonuses paid to staff at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), explaining that such arbitrary measures undermine the common system and the holistic approach that the Commission and Member States must take when considering recommendations on conditions of service. She urged Executive Directors of Geneva based organizations that have not yet implemented the Commission’s decision to reduce post adjustments to do so without delay. She also welcomed the Commission’s report on diversity, reiterated that the common system should reflect the principles set out in Article 101 of the United Nations Charter and looked forward to the outcome of the Commission’s General Service level review.

DAISUKE WAKABAYASHI (Japan), expressing full support for the common system, said that, however, it must be kept transparent, fair and sustainable through constant review and adjusted according to such factors as cost of living and national civil service wages. Paying respect to the role of the International Civil Service Commission in that regard, he emphasized that the decisions of the Commission, along with those of the General Assembly, should be fully implemented in a timely manner. He underlined, in addition, the need for close examination of the rationales and justifications for any additional resource requirements, noting that the recommendations of the Commission will require significant resources that ultimately originate from taxpayers.

Mr. KALUGIN (Russian Federation) recognized the Commission’s major work on the issues impacting the salary and benefits of the United Nations common system. His delegation will support all the Commission’s recommendations. He noted the information on human resources management, pension remuneration and allowances for children. The Commission’s recommendations on the end of service pay for staff whose contracts are not renewed are justified. The Russian Federation is concerned that the recent salary bonuses paid to WIPO staff undermine the common system. It also calls for the retirement age to be raised to 65 years of age in a timely manner throughout the entire common system.

Mr. RHODES, taking the floor a second time, noted the Committee’s election of his successor this morning and wished him every success. He said that, during his term as Chair, he always relied on the Committee’s guidance and support and for that I am extremely grateful. He added that it was truly enriching and rewarding to work in the diverse workplace that makes up the unique world of the United Nations. He concluded by emphasizing that he stands ready to clarify all issues of concern to Committee members during informal consultations.

Source: United Nations