Friday, February 29, 2008

SMCC President Goethel brings impartiality and independence to his position (i-Seek story, 13 February 2008): Response from the Staff Union

The timing of the i-Seek article on the SMCC President could not have been better; a few months before the beginning of a new SMCC session which will require the appointment of the President of SMCC for another year (see ST/SGB/2002/15, section 3.1(c)). Already, the incumbent President has held that post for three years. But then again, SMCC is wont of subverting its terms of reference; it has also been used to subvert the staff rules and regulations and to mislead the Secretary-General.

The President’s claim of impartiality is belied by the quote attributed to him that in “SMCC it takes three to tango; all United Nations staff unions, the management and myself.” His feeling “that Management has lived up to expectations during the last three sessions, which is the only period I can judge”—right after the recently botched attempt by a Working Group to address the concerns that SMCC is flawed—exudes a bias towards Management. A participant in that Working Group has informed our Staff Council of Management’s patronizing attitude during the inconcludent WG meeting.

The President of SMCC agrees that there have been difficulties in the past but he is quick to dismiss the past because “We are not living in the past, we are living in the present and we have to look forward.” He does not, however, offer any suggestions for the roadmap ahead. He concedes that dialogue between staff and management needs to be strengthened but he offers no concrete suggestions that would support a more meaningful relationship. His perception of the SMCC mechanism is that it provides a unique opportunity for Staff to bring their grievances to Management and for Management to listen to the concerns of Staff from around the globe. We can only assume that he is content with maintaining the bogus SMCC mechanism which we have denounced and demanded that it be overhauled.

The SMCC President calls upon the United Nations Staff Union to “take a fresh start and to join the process because a new chapter has been opened in SMCC’s work.” We do not know which chapter he refers to, for nothing has changed – one party has all the power and the other party is powerless. The specification in ST/SGB/2002/15 that the SMCC is a “mechanism for negotiation in good faith between staff representatives and the administration” is undermined by the deliberate non-implementation of outstanding agreements on substantive issues.

The President’s observation that “while Management speaks with one voice, the Staff side is often divided on important issues and struggling to speak with a single voice” is dead-on. Instead of addressing the concerns that led to the boycott of the SMCC, Management found it convenient to pit staff associations against one another; Management has propped the leaderships of some staff associations that have rejoined the SMCC circus with incentives, even to the extent of violating the staff rules and regulations.

The United Nations Staff Union is fully cognizant of the importance of the SMCC. Thus far, however, the SMCC has not lived up to its promise. The underlying concept of SMCC has merit but the tools or mechanisms that would realize the full potential of that concept are inadequate.
The United Nations Staff Union has taken the stand that the SMCC remains a bogus mechanism until the fundamental flaws of the SMCC mechanism are addressed by all parties concerned. There was a glimmer of hope following the establishment of the Joint Negotiation Committee (JNC) at Headquarters in June 2007. Our Staff Union wants a global staff-management negotiation body that allows for our effective and equitable participation in negotiations, where consensual agreements are binding and implemented, along the model of the new JNC. This aspiration is contained in the minutes of the JNC meeting on 10 October 2007 which states:
“The committee considers the establishment of the new JNC mechanism as a major step forward …and agrees that a similar reform of the Secretariat-wide body’s term of reference would now seem desirable in order to build on the JNC model…”

The United Nations Staff Union has proposed changes in Terms of Reference (TOR) for the SMCC that would make it more effective in the future, without prejudice to outstanding agreements that remain to be implemented. Our proposal to discuss the SMCC TOR in the JNC has been blocked by the USG/DM, in contravention of the terms of reference of JNC and SMCC. We forwarded our proposals, several months ahead of the 28th session of SMCC to the USG/DM and the SMCC President to solicit comments from both the administration and fellow staff representatives; we are yet to receive any comments.

The SMCC Working Group on the Institutionalization of the Staff-Management Dialogue was convened in New York from 28-31 January 2008 ostensibly to review the SMCC terms of reference. We had hoped that the SMCC President would use the article posted on i-Seek on 13 February 2008 to report on the outcome of that Working Group which, we have learnt, was a disappointing experience and a complete waste of time.

The United Nations Staff Union is undeterred by the SMCC President’s concern that our boycott of the SMCC mechanism will lose its strength and that we may become marginalized. Upending the gamesmanship of Management in SMCC is long overdue. We are resolute in our quest to bring credibility and integrity to “the Secretariat-wide mechanism for negotiation in good faith between staff representatives and the administration” as provided for in staff regulation 8.1 and ST/SGB/2002/15. We await the report of the just concluded SMCC Working Group on the Institutionalization of the Staff-Management Dialogue.

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