Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

24 Mar, 2018

Global labour unions accuse UN of violating its own rules on the “rule of law”

Brussels, 22 March 2018 (ITUC OnLine) – Staff at the International Labour Organisation are taking strike action today in the latest of a series of walkouts by United Nations employees in protest at the unilateral imposition of significant pay cuts by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), which sets terms and conditions for employees in the UN system. The pay cuts were ordered by the ICSC without any consultation with staff unions and based on deeply flawed cost of living estimates.

Staff were angered by statements from some UN officials in recent days that they had no right to strike, prompting a confirmation from UN Headquarters in New York that “the right to strike is part of customary international law”. The ILO leadership also stated that they would always respect the right of staff to take strike action.

The ILO Governing Body, which is currently meeting in Geneva and is comprised of government, employer and trade union representatives, recognised that despite worker opposition to the ICSC pay cut and the fact that the methodology was flawed, the ILO is nevertheless part of the UN system. The Governing Body couldn’t prevent the application of the ICSC cut, but called for reform of the methodology, with the full involvement of the unions representing the UN workforce and respect for the basic principles of social dialogue.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said, “The unilateral imposition of pay cuts on staff, with no negotiation or consultation with the unions that represent them, is a clear violation of ILO Convention 98 on the right to collective bargaining. At the behest of some governments which want to undermine multilateralism and which seem happy to weaken the United Nations, the UN is contravening its own standards. When the global body which should stand for the rule of law violates the law itself, then the rule of law everywhere is damaged. It is abundantly clear that the ICSC needs urgent and sweeping reform, and we stand in solidarity with the United Nations’ workforce in their quest for justice.”

Catelene Passchier, Chair of the Workers’ Group in the ILO Governing Body, said “the worker representatives at the ILO are 100% in support of the right of ILO staff to take strike action in this international dispute, and we expect that the employer representatives will also unambiguously support this fundamental right nationally and internationally.”

The ITUC represents 207 million members of 331 affiliates in 163 countries and territories.