STATEMENT BY STAFF REPRESENTATIVES ON UN STAFF DAY

Statement on UN Staff Day Delivered by Ian Richards United Nations Headquarters, New York Tuesday 25 October 2016 --- Hello Colleagues, It’s great to see so many of you joining today and to see, through the many national costumes on display. Though I suspect the cold weather discouraged a few of you from doing the same. Dimitri, who is from Greece, wanted to try his national dress. Rumours are that the Secretary-General was considering a hanbok. Dimitri talked just now about the challenges facing staff at the UN, around the world, and on this day I felt it important to expand on his very strong points. Over the last few years the global conversation is no longer about whether the world needs the UN. And that’s a good thing. Indeed, increasingly we are seen as the ones who countries turn to in order to solve those problems they can’t solve by themselves. We’re expanding our peace-keeping operations to new locations, setting up a new line in disease eradication, bringing the world together on climate change and, through the SDGs, working in new areas. These achievements are significant. And they have been done in the context of difficult economic times and cost-cutting. We’re told to do more with less. That has been the mantra of the last few years. Until Umoja. Then it became do less with more. So it hasn’t been the easiest of times. And one cut after another, from staff pay to posts, does wear us down. That’s why we ask our Secretary-General and our President of the General-Assembly to defend our posts to member states when discussions come up about the outline for the 2018-19 budget. And we also ask them to make clear on UN staff day that reverting to the usual practice of cutting general service posts, hoping no-one will notice, is not without harm, both to our operations and to the morale of general service staff. But the challenge is not just about cuts. From 2018, we will have something called a global service delivery model. This means, assuming Umoja starts working properly, that many administrative processes, payroll, contracts and suchlike, will be centralized in a few locations, as will posts. It will pit administrative staff in different duty stations against each other, in a fight to keep their jobs. Santiago versus New York, Beirut versus Nairobi. Vienna versus Geneva. It will be a zero-sum gain with no winners. It’s not clear that these exercises have been successful within governments and it’s doing great damage to staff morale. So on UN staff day let me say this to senior management. Instead of banishing administrative staff to back offices far from their clients let’s work how out how can we use Umoja to help the staff we have, multiply their output without losing jobs. Meanwhile in peacekeeping and refugee assistance, our field service colleagues in the FS category, who deploy around the world at a moment’s notice to keep our peacekeeping operations running, face an uncertain future. Will their posts be made local, putting them out of a job? Will they be re-employed on three-year temporary contracts? They may be lower down on the UN’s hierarchy of grades but on UN staff day let’s not forget that without them, our peacekeeping operations would fall apart. Colleagues, on UN staff day I wanted to take this opportunity to ask our Secretary-General and President of the General Assembly to join us in paying tribute to our female colleagues who make up 35 percent of the organization, 48 percent of staff in headquarters and 21 percent of staff in the field. They perform amazing work and deliver wonders. Yet their talent and contribution isn’t always fairly recognized in the workplace. The UN 21 awards later today will hopefully showcase many staff who have made exceptional contributions to this organization. We expect that among those colleagues, there will be some real-life superwomen who have achieved so much for this organization. Staff day is also an opportunity to thank our colleagues who are about to retire. They have devoted their careers to this organization yet face six months until they receive their first pension payment. It’s a challenge we must continue to work on. And on this special day, let us not forget, as Dimitri mentioned, our colleagues in non-family duty stations who work sometimes in fear of their lives. Wars and conflicts don’t stop for UN staff day, the destitute still need to be fed, refugees provided shelter. Let’s therefore devote this day to those colleagues who cannot enjoy it in the same way as we can. And we’ll be hearing from some of them as they join in by video-conference during this event. So there are many challenges as we move forward. These challenges must be dealt with by staff and management working together And it’s important that we re-establish meaningful dialogue between staff and management. Finally allow us to thank all those staff who have taken the time to organize this event in New York and around the world. Enjoy the day and thank you.