Human Rights Council session to go ahead despite UN strike

Discontent over pay and work conditions at the UN in Geneva has been growing for almost a year

Meetings of the United Nations Human Rights Council are set to go ahead on Friday despite another call for a one-day strike by UN Geneva staff to protest wage cuts and deteriorating work conditions.  

This content was published on March 22, 2018 - 16:17

“I continue to engage with those concerned with a view to ensuring that basic minimum services be extended to the council tomorrow,” council president Vojislav Šuc said on Thursday. 

Šuc said two or three council meetings may take place at the UN headquarters in Geneva on Friday on what is typically a busy final day of the month-long council, when states vote on human rights resolutions. 

The UN Staff Council has called for a second full day of strike tomorrow to “protect pay and conditions of service”. Striking staff at the UN's historic Palais des Nations complex are due to be joined by personnel from the International Labour Organization and the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva.

This follows a similar strike action a week ago. On March 16, UN staff in Geneva went on strike for the day following a vote supported by over 1,000 UN civil servants; 120 people opposed the move. As a result, last Friday’s Human Rights Council session was cancelled along with other meetings. 

The growing strike action follows a “serious and ongoing deterioration in employment conditions due to the decisions of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)”, posters in the UN claim.

+ some background to the UN strike action

Since April 2017, UN staff have steadily escalated their protests of plans to slash annual salaries of international civil servants in the Swiss city. They have also joined a wider UN protest for “more transparent, participatory, balanced and fair process to determine staff pay and conditions”.  

They are particularly unhappy with the ICSC, which last year proposed to lower UN civil servants’ pay in Geneva by 5.1%. This involved reducing a so-called “post adjustment index” for professional staff working in the city. The idea came after the ICSC surveyed the cost of living in various UN locations. It said the salary cut for Geneva-based staff would align them with colleagues in New York, where purchasing power had dropped.   

An estimated 9,500 staff work for the UN in Geneva at either the Palais des Nations European headquarters or at one of the numerous UN agencies dotted around the city, such as the World Health Organization (WHO).

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