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In UN Is Ban Pushing USGs to Get 10% Raise or Just Decompression?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 23 -- In the UN system, is Ban Ki-moon pushing for pay raises for the highest paid officials and cuts for those below or is it just "decompression"?

  Last week Inner City Press reported on and asked about what multiple sources told it of the proceedings of the International Civil Service Commission, of which staff union said

"Ban Ki-moon has successfully obtained the approval of the ICSC to pay more to senior staff, financed by cuts to junior and mid-level staff. Under the revised salary scale, top bosses at the Under-Secretary-General grade get 10% more pay (so up to $25,000 a year more) while new graduate entry staff at P-1 grade will be 6% poorer. This at a time when the Secretary-General claims to be campaigning against inequality and all the time cutting frontline jobs."

 Inner City Press published a story, and twice asked the UN about Ban Ki-moon's position. On March 23, Ban's deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq returned with this, at the noon briefing:

I was asked last week about some communications made by staff representatives about the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and salaries of senior officials at the United Nations.

I have been informed by the Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) that what was tweeted and broadcasted by staff representatives is incorrect.  First of all, the conditions of service, including the salaries, of Assistant Secretaries-General and Under-Secretaries-General are set by the General Assembly and not by the ICSC or the Secretary-General.

At the moment, the International Civil Service Commission is reviewing the compensation package of the International Professional staff from the P-1 to the D-2 levels and as part of this review it is considering the structure of the salary scale.  Whatever the Commission decides in this respect will be presented to the General Assembly for its decision.  The General Assembly is the one to decide on all the recommendations.

 Any questions?  Yes.

Inner City Press:  I have some other questions, but I wanted to ask about the answer you gave for the questions from last week.  Thanks for getting that.  What I'd like to ask… I wasn't actually asking what they put on their Facebook page.  I'm asking about a document that's called Report of the Working Group on the Remediation Structure Refined Salary Scale Models/Structure.  It is an internal document of ICSC, but it very much describes increasing the number of steps and the amounts paid to higher ranked staff.  And I wanted to know what is the Secretary-General's position on what's been approved by ICSC then would be subjected to a GA vote?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  As far as I know the ICSC's recommendations are due not right now but later this year, I believe later in the summer, and would be considered by the General Assembly still later in the year.  The process first of all is still ongoing.  I don't believe that the ICSC has concluded that process.

Beyond that, in terms of the question, the question not about raising people's pay at one level and decreasing at another but about whether the wage scales will be compressed or decompressed.  In other words, when you enter a level, how long do you stay at… within that same wage scale before you go up another step and another step beyond that?  You know, do you ascend quickly from one… from one step to the next step if you're at one particular level?  Or does it happen more slowly?

And, you know, and is there that much of a difference from when you enter and when you leave, between the highest rank… the highest level at which you're paid entering… entering a level and the lowest level, the entry level.  And on these cases, the question is really one of compression versus decompression in other words.

And what we're trying to see is how the United Nations stacks up against other international organizations and whether our scales are comparable to theirs, are better or worse.  We want them, you know, in the broadest sense to be comparable, and that's where we basically stand.  But in terms of formulations, that is really in the hands, like I said, of the International Civil Service Commission, and then beyond that once they've come up with their recommendations later in the year, it's in the hands of the General Assembly.

Inner City Press:  When you say we, you mean the Secretary-General?  That is his position is to favor this…

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  The Secretary-General's position is basically that we want to make sure that whatever packages of whatever compensation we afford at any level is comparable to the best practices of other organizations so that we're in line with… with where they are.  How that is applied is really a decision for the Civil Service Commission.  Yeah, and like I said, it's not… again, it's not a question as was discussed last week of raising rates at one level and decreasing them so much as it is one of the question of compression versus decompression. 

  But one in the know replies that decompression means increasing the salary difference between the top grades (D-1/D-2/ASG/USG) and the bottom grades (P-1/P-2), not with how long you spend in a grade. Decompression is very much about increasing the pay gap and in this case they chose to decrease pay at bottom grades (which will affect newcomers and llimit the top of the P-1/P2 scale for actual staff) and increase top grades.

Process-wise, the GA has to approve the ICSC recommendation. But the ICSC is the biggest hurdle and that hurdle was overcome last Tuesday. From start to end, the UN, and organizations, have been supportive of and pushing for this new decompressed scale. Their reasoning is that they have to trouble attracting staff at the entry-level but do have trouble getting good candidates for top grade jobs. But when a D-1 or D-2 is advertized or ASG or USG, there is plenty of competition.

 We'll have more on this.

 In the UN system, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is campaigning for the highest paid officials to get back even more, while only the lower rank professionals' pay is cut.

   Inner City Press is informed that Ban Ki-moon's team, after in essence breaking the staff union in New York, has procured approval to change to the salary scale so that Director-1 staff and above would get pay rises, paid for by cuts to Professional-4 staff. Under Secretaries General like Herve Ladsous would get a 10 percent pay rise -- up to $25,000 more a year --  while entry-level P-1s get a 6 percent cut.

  This at time that the UN pays lip-service to reducing inequality.

  This is not "performance based" -- under Ladsous for example UN Peacekeeping has been exposed for positions being sold and for sexual abuse, on which Ladsous refuses to answer Press questions, for example on March 17, here.

 As the UN talks about workers' rights and collegiality, inside the Glass House things can be quite different. On July 31, 2014, Inner City Press reported how the head of the UN Department of General Assembly and Conference Management Tegegnework Gettu calling female critics "emotional," here.

 On March 9, multiple sources told Inner City Press that Gettu told complaining staff "I am warning you," cutting them off while saying We are all equal, including me." Really? Leaked audio exclusively put online by Inner City Press here.

 What will Secretary General Ban Ki-moon do? Under his management, the UN Staff Union in New York has been broken. But is this rant appropriate? Previously, Gettu said, if we all fart together, it doesn't smell. Really?

 Back on July 31 Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced he is shifting Catherine Pollard from the Office of Human Resources Management over to become Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM), replacing Franz Baumann of Germany.

  As Inner City Press previously reported, Pollard had declared herself the poster child of Ban's “mobility” policy, to only hold the same post -- or was it duty station? -- for five years.

   No matter that, for example, Robert Serry has said on television he's been in his post six years. Pollard has made a lateral move, and Baumann's next move is not yet clear.

  What does DGACM do? As a sample, Inner City Press has already exclusively received a number of complaints about a meeting held by DGACM chief Tegegnework Gettu, also on July 31. According to sources, Gettu used the meeting to tell staff how well he is doing, how objective he is, that he has no personal agenda. (Click here for previously Inner City Press report.)

  But when he opened the floor, the first staff member who dared make a suggestion -- that verbatim is now nearly identical to translation -- was cut off and told that his was only a personal opinion.

  A female staffer who made a criticism was told by Gettu to not be “emotional.” Eventually Gettu was telling the assembled staff that the UN “is good” and “if you don't like it, walk away.”

  In fact, it was in DGACM that the staff member elected vice president of the Staff Union in December was terminated -- Gettu says he didn't re-apply for a job so he clearly didn't need one -- and it was in DGACM that staff members were subjected to bed bugs, among other things, in the Albano Building.

  On July 31, the sources exclusively tell Inner City Press that Gettu told DGACM staff that they may remain in the Albano Building on 46th Street until 2017 when, he says, the UN may have a “DC5” building, proposed to be built on the Robert Moses playground south of 42nd Street. Click here for Inner City Press story.

  There are many hardworking staff in DGACM, and even some in management may mean well.

   But the type of self-serving speechifying at staff described to Inner City Press by sources on July 31 is indicative of the same UN which, for example among the press, evicted the News Agency of Nigeria from its work area claiming a lack of space while giving a large room to its favored UN Censorship Alliance (UNCA) -- which now says it will leave the room empty and locked from August 1 to August 19. We and the new Free UN Coalition for Access will have more on this. We'll have more on this.


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