At midnight on Christmas Eve, the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly, which negotiates administrative issues, approved the award of continuing contracts to United Nations staff as of January 2011.
The resolution allows continuing contracts to staff who have served for five years, with consistent performance of at least “meets expectations” in the last four ePas reports, and with no disciplinary measures against them.
This is a major breakthrough for staff, who have served without the prospect of permanent or continuing contracts since 1995. In the last two years, the UNOG Staff Coordinating Council has made a concerted effort to fight for this, as the designated focal point, through its participation in the UN’s Staff Management Coordinating Committee (SMCC). We have made various presentations to the Fifth Committee to press for the award of continuing contracts. Staff also sent a position paper to the Committee on 17 December demanding that this be done “without further delay”.
The draft resolution we’ve obtained contains a fairly complex set of criteria, under which staff would be eligible. Firstly, at the insistence of certain member states, there is to be an “envelope” (or ceiling) of 75% of posts, which means not all staff will immediately be eligible to receive continuing contracts. Secondly, a “points” system is to be put in place, in which staff are awarded points related to performance, mobility, length of service and, for international professional staff, language proficiency. These points determine who gets into the envelope when demand exceeds supply.
We are not happy with this envelope and we will ensure that it is the subject of major negotiations among staff and management representatives in the coming months to ensure its transparency and modification.
The Coordinating Council believes it is also good news that the General Assembly, in their own words, “urges the Secretary-General to consider granting five year fixed-term contracts to staff… who are not awarded continuing contracts.” This means that we can continue the work we have already begun to collaborate with our administration and come up with a longer fixed-term contract which at least gives some more security than the continuous two-year fixed-terms which with which we are all familiar.
The General Assembly is also specifically limiting the use of consultancy contracts (SSAs) and other contractors who perform staff functions. The draft resolution requests the establishment of posts where contractors are used for more than one year. That will ensure that the people who work for us, as quasi “self-employed”, but who are doing staff functions, will be given some measure of protection, as their positions should be converted to real posts. It will also encourage management to be more responsible and accountable about hiring, and bringing more staff within the ambit of the Central Review Bodies and the UN’s Staff Regulations and Rules.
We look forward to moving forward on these important issues within UNOG. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.