Why you should join the Staff Union
What is the weight of the Staff Union in the ILO?
It is important and indisputable, since two-thirds of the staff are voluntarily unionized, both at Headquarters and in the field. Its strength lies in the fact that it represents all categories of staff without distinction, even interns. It is recognized in the Staff Regulations (Chapter X) as the sole representative of the interests of the staff and is entitled to negotiate working conditions under a collective agreement signed in 2000, validated by the Organization’s Governing Body. For more than 100 years, the members who make up the Staff Union have had a solid knowledge of labour issues, since they have worked in the Organization and are therefore generally better able to defend their rights when necessary. With its DNA forged in the pursuit of social justice, many mobilizations have taken place over the years and the Staff Union has often been the leading organization within the UN common system to defend the rights, independence and interests of the international civil service.
Integrity, security, independence
In the ILO it is up to each individual to decide whether or not to join the Staff Union. Read on to see why we should all become members.
How can I join?
Anyone who is employed by the ILO can become a member of the Staff Union. It does not matter how long your contract is or what type of contract you have; the Staff Union is open to all grades and categories. Staff who leave the ILO can remain members by joining the Former Officials’ Section.
How much does it cost ?
The contribution is set at 4.5 per thousand of salary (that is 0.45 percent). There is no limit to what members may contribute in terms of time and ideas.
What are the benefits ?
There are plenty, of course! First of all, it’s a question of solidarity, of belonging to a community which is fully engaged in serving the fundamental objectives of the Organization. It is also about you as an individual having access to the legal services of the Staff Union should you need to resolve a problem with your chief or with the Administration.
It’s about participating in information and training sessions to better understand your rights and responsibilities. What the Staff Union can do for members depends to a large extent on the efforts of members themselves. As a member you will be in a position to play a part in shaping your working environment and improving your conditions of employment. One thing is certain: we can achieve more through our joint efforts as members of the Staff Union than each of us would on our own.
What influence does the Staff Union have in the ILO ?
The Union is clearly representative – 73% of the staff are unionized – and it has the strength to mobilize members – last November 2019, half of the staff manifested its discontent with the result that an external mediation process was agreed to. The Staff Union, therefore, can and does have a real influence on decisions on a wide range of issues affecting staff, in particular through its joint bodies such as the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), which negotiates policies, procedures and practices on everything related to our terms and conditions of work. This body has negotiated over such issues as: a dispute resolution system, classification procedures, a recruitment and selection procedure, personal and career development, and work-life balance (parental leave, breastfeeding room, etc.). The Staff Union also participates actively in joint sessions on recommendations for titularization and personal promotions.
Is it really worth joining the Staff Union ?
Working in the ILO, we shouldn’t even ask this question 😉 It may be that in the UN we have the tendency to count our good fortune. But our terms and conditions of employment, particularly our salaries and pensions, have been deteriorating for a number of years now. We need strong staff representation, active in headquarters and the field, not only in the ILO but also in the federations of international civil servants if this trend is to be reversed and to defend our conditions of work and employment.
It should also be borne in mind that the salaries of some ILO staff, in particular General Service officials in the field, provide a very low standard of living. But remuneration is not the only issue. In fact, the Staff Union devotes more than half of its time and energy to other matters unrelated – or only indirectly related – to pay and pensions, such as job security, occupational safety and health, staff movements, the mobility policy, special problems of staff in the field, job classification, recruitment and selection, training, career policy and equal opportunity, as well as problems affecting officials individually. By being a member, you will be able to take up the issues that are most important to you.
What if I have problems with my boss or with a colleague?
Interpersonal or communication problems can often be solved by consulting a Facilitator or the Mediator. If this does not work, or if the dispute arises from unfair treatment or a breach of the Staff Regulations, please contact your Union Steward or the Staff Union Committee. A member of the Staff Union Committee will advise you on how best to proceed: for example, by informing you of your rights or obligations under the Staff Regulations; by interceding on your behalf; by accompanying you when you discuss a contentious matter with your chief; or by helping you formulate a complaint. The Union regularly helps members, notably through its legal adviser, in both the informal and the formal dispute resolution processes, right up to the level of the ILO Administrative Tribunal.
How can I find out more about the Staff Union?
Why not dip into the Staff Union Committee’s report to the last Annual General Meeting? You can find it on the Staff Union’s website or obtain it from the Secretariat, office 6-016, ext. 7956/57. Information about current activities can be found in the Staff Union bulletins or on the website. Better still, ask your colleagues who are or have been Union Stewards or members of the Staff Union Committee – they will be happy to answer your questions. If you work in the field, don’t hesitate to contact the local Union representative or write to the Regional Titular Member, focal point or directly to the Chairperson.
How can I take part in Staff Union activities?
Take part in our information sessions, for a start. Or you can stand for election as a Union Steward or as a member of the Committee – your contribution might turn out to be more valuable and effective than you think.
If you work in the field, find out whether there is a branch of the Staff Union at your duty station. Whether you are employed in an ILO office or on an ILO project, you enjoy essentially the same benefits from Union membership as headquarters’ staff. The one big difference is that you are far from the centre of decision-making in the Office – one of the reasons why the Staff Union has made special arrangements for the representation of field staff.
We hope this information note has demonstrated how the Staff Union has a useful role to play. Remember that improvements gained through the Staff Union are of benefit to all staff.
To become a member, please complete the membership form (also available on the website) and send it to the Staff Union Secretariat (office 6-016). If you are still not convinced, please ring the Chairperson (ext. 7958) or the Secretariat (ext. 7956/57).