Dear Colleagues,

I’m not an economist, I’m not a lawyer.

I’m only passionate about debates on social, political and economic issues.

And I wonder about which kind of world my kids will have to live in.

This is why I’d like to talk a little bit about a controversial subject, to see if there is an appetite for discussions and exchanges.

Basic Income.

These two words are quite popular in these times of Covid-19, when trying to imagine how to overcome the economic problems our societies are already facing, due to the slowdown of activities all over the world.

Even in the US, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez demands the government to distribute a universal basic income and implement ‘Medicare for all’ to fight the coronavirus.

So, what is this Basic Income?

Cash payments (rather than in-kind transfers) made to individuals (rather than to households) on an unconditional basis (as opposed to being tied to a means test or work requirement).

“The goal of such programs is to provide a guaranteed minimum level of income to all persons, thereby giving them the freedom to say “no” to unattractive and potentially exploitative offers of employment, and the freedom to say “yes” to any number of other pursuits, whether it be staying home to raise a family, pursuing the life of an artist, or simply surfing the beaches of Malibu.”



But who pays for that?

And overall, is it fair?

“Why, after all, should hardworking laborers have some of their wages taken away to support surfers who eschew work to pursue their hobby?”

“For starters, many people under our current system do not face any requirement to make a contribution to society—namely, the rich. If reciprocity is such an important political norm, why is it only a problem when the poor are able to enjoy leisure without working? More fundamentally, why assume that the only form that a social contribution can take is paid labor in the marketplace? Artists, parents, homemakers, and many others make a vitally important social contribution, for which they are often financially compensated either poorly or not at all. A UBI that provides these individuals with a minimum level of income will arguably make things more fair with respect to considerations of reciprocity, not less.”

And is it really feasible? And how?

If you are interested in finding answers to these (and many other) questions, I suggest you to read this book (from which the above quotations come): Basic Income: A Radical Proposal for a Free Society and a Sane Economy by Philippe van Parijs and Yannick Vanderborght

Here you find a short but really well done review of the book

Other interesting link if you want to know more about Basic Income. the Basic Income Earth Network four videos du Mouvement Français pour un Revenue de Base

I’d like to conclude with the words of Philippe van Parijs, the author of the book.

“The possibility of society granting an income to people who make no effort to receive it is considered morally reprehensible by large sections of both the right and the left. But if we look at the UBI [Universal Basic Income] in a little more detail, we can see that it corresponds to a third generation of social subsidies: the first one appeared in certain Flemish and German cities during the 17th century and was exclusively an assistance for the poor; the second one was set up by Bismarck in Germany and had the character of solidarity among workers; and the third generation of social income, to which the UBI belongs, considers these as a dividend for the social wealth accumulated over generations and which, therefore, should be distributed to the whole of society. The value behind UBI is therefore justice, not charity or solidarity.”

“I came to this idea of the UBI at the beginning of the 1980s when unemployment began to become massive and it was intended to be combated through the incessant increase in production, an ecologically unsustainable proposal, or with the old recipe of state ownership of the means of production, which, in real socialism, ended freedom and did not achieve the end of inequality.

The UBI offered an alternative to neoliberalism and state socialism, because it allowed people to free themselves from both market subjection and state submission, it was environmentally friendly and very radical and inspiring, it promised a utopia for the future that people were passionate about”


En ces temps d’isolement et de tourments, votre syndicat vous offre une fenêtre sur le monde, sur un monde plein de courage et de dignité.

Tout d’abord, une bonne nouvelle, ré-utilisable à volonté : Rappelons-nous que chaque employée/é du BIT est un maillon vibrant de la solidarité entre travailleurs.

Soyez grandi par cette idée !

Grâce à vous, les luttes, anciennes et actuelles, souvent sauvages, pour la survie des personnes et la justice sociale, trouvent une épaule, un support, une protection, parfois des lois…

Mais toujours un cœur qui bat !

Cette semaine, nous vous proposons un bijou cinématographique,
plein de lumière ; authentique et émouvant :

« Le sel de la terre (1954)».

Troublante illustration de l’engagement héroïque
de ceux qui fondent et sculptent l’or de la solidarité,
et dont nous sommes les fiers serviteurs.

A visionner en ligne en cliquant ici


Ces héros ne sont pas des superhéros, ils sont réels.

Leur vision solidaire et émancipatrice leur donne la force de mettre leur vie en jeu pour les autres travailleurs, du présent et du futur, qui savourent les fruits de leurs exploits, pendant que depuis un siècle, le BIT et ses employé.e.s en ramassent les graines et les cultivent.


Les conditions de travail dans les mines furent l’objet des premières luttes auxquelles le BIT s’est associé. Celles-ci furent magnifiquement illustrées par différents artistes , à découvrir ici.

Pour avoir une idée de ce que signifie être un mineur aujourd’hui,
un documentaire à voir en ligne, en cliquant ici

En musique ça donne ça

Pour finir en beauté, une chanson de mineurs, rendue populaire par N. Mandela, que lui et ses compagnons d’infortune chantaient en prison, tout en cassant des pierres. Elle raconte le quotidien des mineurs qui partaient en train vers les mines.

English version


Yannick Humeau

Although the ILO advocates for the “Future of work we want” in the framework of its centenary celebration, discrimination and precarious work still remain realities within the Office. Discover here what ILO colleagues are suffering in their day to day life…

Ana has been working with dedication for the same employer for the last 15 years. As many of us do, she plans to buy a house. The bank, however, has turned her down: you can’t get a loan on a one-year contract. She wants to have a baby, but she’s not sure it’s sensible as her maternity leave would start after the end of her current contract. In fact, she’s constantly worried about not having a contract after the one she’s on, especially as she’s not entitled to unemployment benefit. But, like many other precarious workers, she dares not complain, because she doesn’t want to be seen as a trouble-maker.

You don’t know Ana? She works in the ILO!

Like many others, Ana works on the issues which are at the heart of the ILO, whilst her own rights to decent work are put on hold. Like many others, she promotes decent work and fundamental rights at work, supporting ILO constituents to implement them. This is the kind of job you do with passion and great pride.

You do know Ana: she’s one of the many ILO members of staff working on “DC” (which stands for “Development Cooperation”, formerly known as “TC” for “technical cooperation”, i.e non-regular budget) contracts. [1]


Ana is one of us. We feel privileged to be working at the heart of the ILO vision for social justice.

But, as staff members on DC contracts, we are always left aside.


NEARLY 45% of ILO staff are precarious workers

No one should be in this situation. At the ILO, over 4 in 10 workers (1381 total), i.e nearly half of the ILO workforce (professional and general service), are precarious workers (some of them with monthly contracts after more than 5, 10 or 15 years of service). In some branches, this percentage rises dramatically, to as much as 70% or more. In the field, over 55% of general service staff are employed on Development Cooperation contracts. All of these figures have increased in the last year (See: Composition and structure of the staff at 31 December 2018, GB.335/PFA/11).

We are not called “ILO staff”, we are called “ILO DC staff”. Two letters that make a world of a difference: a world of inequality and discrimination.

Survey results carried out by the Staff Union on DC staff show:

(Source: Survey results and key findings from the Survey on ILO staff on TC cooperation, January 2015)


What would be the ILO’s impact in its Centenary year in the absence of the work done by DC staff? Many of the results reported to the international community in the Centenary year, and to the Governing body on key ILO outcomes, are mainly obtained through DC projects and DC staff. Would the ILO have been able to release the global estimates on child labour and forced labour? Would the ILO have been able to contribute to the work of the Joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)? What would the ILO’s Flagship Programme working to promote improved working conditions in garment industry supply chains look like in the absence of over 200 Better Work staff working across 8 countries?


A career based on short-term contracts

On paper, DC-funded staff are supposed to be doing DC work, short-term assignments, and specific project-related work. “Development cooperation appointments are not expected to lead to a career in the ILO“, as we are reminded at the beginning of all DC vacancy announcements.

The reality, however, is different: most of us have been here for many years; five, ten, fifteen, twenty, more, doing core ILO work, Regular Budget work! We raise funds. We represent the ILO in external meetings and events. We are the face of the ILO when dealing with constituents. We carry out research. We provide support and assistance to our constituents. We draft official reports of meetings. We contribute to the Programme and Budget reporting and monitoring. We carry out crucial administrative and financial tasks. So, on top of this being an issue of discrimination, it is also a structural issue as some core services are performed by staff which should hence be paid on RB instead of DC as they currently are.


Unequal and discriminatory practices

Although, most colleagues would find the situation unfair and unacceptable, they do not genuinely know what is like to be “DC”. In fact, many colleagues do not even realize we are under so-called, “DC contracts”. We say “so-called” because in the entire 124-page Staff Regulations – all 14 Chapters, plus five annexes – there is not a single solitary reference to “DC (nor TC) contracts”. In fact, a quick read of the Staff Regulations is instructive, as references to DC/TC are focused exclusively on “technical cooperation project staff” or “staff assigned to technical cooperation projects”. This further highlights the difference between how these arrangements were first conceived (to staff specific projects, of limited duration) and the situation into which it has morphed over time.

Let us introduce you to other colleagues (All cases in this article are real but names have been changed):

  • Daniel’s contract is always renewed at the last moment, a few days or weeks before its end date.
  • Mariam’s contracts have never exceeded a year, even when the ILO had received funding from the donor for several years. In fact, did you know the ILO can issue a DC contract for more than a year? Yes, it is possible but hardly ever done! Why?
  • Emma has to sublet as she could not provide evidence of a stable employment needed to rent a flat.
  • Sofia, Phil and Emily joined the ILO in the same year. Phil and Emily were awarded for 25 years of service by the DG, but Sofia was not, because she has been working on DC. Did her contribution to the ILO have less value?
  • Moving is one of the most stressful things a family can face, and there is no difference in the administrative and logistical hurdles that Maria has to deal with in changing duty stations, compared with her RB colleagues. So why isn’t she granted the same leave to deal with the move?
  • Shortly after Myra announced she was pregnant, her supervisor told her she would not be renewed.
  • Jaya has been working for the ILO for more than 10 years but she has been without a contract for several weeks from time to time. As a consequence, when applying to regular positions over the years, she is still considered as an external candidate, despite her qualifications and years of ILO experience.
  • Although Khaled is entitled to home leave, he has only taken it once in 8 years; continual short term contracts mean that he never has the 6+ months of contract duration upon return from home leave that is required for him to take it.
  • After six years of service in the ILO, Oliver’s contract ended last month. He is applying for several positions but is now considered an external candidate, with no recognition of his long service to the organization.
  • Nicola is never able to leave Switzerland during the Christmas break, as her contract is always renewed at the last moment, without enough time to have her legitimation card renewed beforehand.
  • Santiago is often working during his holidays or leave, even during his sick leave. The workload is enormous, but he does not feel he can take breaks: if he doesn’t deliver the project outputs, he worries that he could lose his job.
  • Mamadou is national project manager and, like many DC field colleagues, usually takes only a few days of annual leave as his workload doesn’t allow him to take more. However, this is no longer allowed as the Office limits what staff can accrue. But in his case, it was also a way for him to put money aside in view of the end of his precarious contract.

These are real cases of colleagues around you. This precariousness is the sword of Damocles hanging over our heads constantly, even after 10 years or more of serving the ILO. And when we are no longer needed, it is a simple “goodbye”: because we are DC, there is no further compensation. We are not fired, we are “just” not renewed. In the words of an HR colleague, uttered without much compassion “as DC staff, you should know the rules of the game“.

And this cannot even be mitigated with unemployment services, as the UN failed to negotiate with national authorities to allow staff to voluntarily contribute to unemployment schemes. So there is no safety net either.

Even with outstanding performance appraisals, strong skills and expertise, developed over many years, there is little career advancement, as we are not considered specialists (remember, because we should not expect a career at the ILO…).

Well, it is about time the rules changed and this discrimination in our midst ended.

Can the ILO lead the future of work without addressing these problems facing its own internal working conditions; giving rise to the ILO precariat?

Although some improvements have been made, such as the DC +5 status considered during the recruitment process there is still a long way to go: DC+5 means five years of continuous contract with the ILO without a break of more than a month – something DC staff often are unable to achieve.

We welcome the decision taken to re-establish the DC Committee within the Staff Union, and hope that it will begin its work soon, and seriously. We stand ready to help. We suggest you do the same. Contact the union at to get involved, to share your stories, and to help build “One ILO” where DC staff are no longer considered second-class workers.

As an organization fighting for decent work around the world, the ILO should stand for its staff, take risks for its staff. Ana, Daniel, Mariam, Khaled and all of us deserve equal rights and equal treatment.

We are calling for a roadmap to end this discrimination together with the management and the union and in full consultation with DC staff.

One ILO, one ILO staff.


A group of “DC” colleagues working at HQ

This message reflects the positions of a group of “DC” colleagues working at HQ, and the ILO Staff Union bears no responsibility for its content.



[1] All cases in this article are real but names have been changed

At the 335th Session of the Governing Body, there are some documents and discussions which may have implications on the conditions of employment and work of ILO staff. Please find below an ABC for this Session with comments of the ILO Staff Union…

Administrative Tribunal: 335/PFA/12/1: The document observes the pressure on the ILO Administrative Tribunal through the withdrawal of four international organizations from its jurisdiction. The Staff Union fears that these developments might have a negative impact on the impartiality and independence of judges.

Building Renovation: GB.335/PFA/3: The ILO Staff Union regrets the two-pace advancement of the building renovation work: colleagues that are located in the inferior part of the building are still potentially exposed to asbestos (even though “the asbestos is contained and of no immediate danger”) and are more at risk with regard to a possible fire.

Cost considerations affecting support staff: GB. 335/PFA/1: Paragraph 46 of the document refers to cost considerations, the Business Process Review and “better value for money”. The ILO Staff Union notes that these cost considerations have led to a considerable decrease in the number of G staff over recent years, colleagues which now often face an additional workload and ever shorter deadlines to the detriment of their health.

Diversity among staff: GB. 335/PFA/11:  This document informs on the establishment of an action plan by the Office to ensure geographical diversity and gender balance among its staff. While welcoming these efforts, the ILO Staff Union is of the view that diversity does not only relate to geographical and gender balance, but goes much further including also variety in terms of social origin, languages spoken, professional background, disability, and sexual orientation, among others.

International Civil Service Commission (developments regarding the review of the consultative process of ICSC and reform of the post adjustment methodology): GB. 335/PFA/13: The ILO Staff Union continues to observe the usual – now chronic- delaying tactics that it has already seen in the past.

Pensions: GB. 335/PFA/INF/5: paragraph 14 refers to possible amendments to the United Joint Staff Pension Board, which the ILO Staff Union fears will have serious consequences with regard to the representativeness of the ILO in this common Board.

The ILO Staff Union Committee




The ILO Staff Union Committee (SUC) of Bangkok recently contributed to the construction of 18 temporary houses in the Desa Jogo Oge area for the victims of the earthquake in the Sulawesi region in Indonesia. This assistance was provided to affected families with the support of a local NGO, Yayasan Wahana Bakti Sejahtera. In the recent past, several mobilisation campaigns were launched by the SUC in Bangkok to provide assistance to those in need of immediate aid and assistance (including in other regions than Indonesia, such as in Mexico and Southern Nepal after the disastrous events in 2017). These fundraising campaigns have helped to express solidarity to the victims of those natural disasters, even though staff union members often feel that in light of the humanitarian and environmental challenges, the real needs are enormous. We thank all colleagues who have contributed with their donation to show sympathy and provide some solace.

SUC Bangkok

 If you have further questions on the procedure regarding the organization of the promotional campaigns undertaken in the past, please contact:

Le jour de la saint Valentin, nos membres  sont venus montrer leur solidarité en venant nombreux à la première session de l’AG du Syndicat. Bien que de nombreuses informations aient été données,  voici les points marquants pour ceux qui n’auraient pas pu y participer…

Au début de la réunion, la présidente, Catherine Comte-Tiberghien a  fait le point sur la situation passablement irritante  concernant les négociations en cours avec l’administration. Nous avons été  désolés  d’apprendre  que le rétablissement d’un véritable dialogue social, après les évènements de 2018 qui avaient générés déception et  détruit la confiance  est une fois de plus altéré par l’administration: des documents indispensables à la négociation au sein du Comité de négociation paritaire (JNC) n’ont pas été soumis suffisamment  à l’avance  afin que le Syndicat puisse présenter  sa position sur des sujets cruciaux ( recrutement et sélection., diversité, amendements aux statuts du personnel etc…). Heureusement, dans une réunion ayant eu lieu le lendemain  de l’AG, le Directeur-général  a réaffirmé très clairement et sans équivoque  « la nécessité d’un dialogue social prévisible  et   fiable », des paroles bienvenues qui ont certainement évité que la prochaine session du Conseil d’administration de mars 2019 soit une fois encore agitée.  Restez connectés afin de suivre ce qu’il va se passer au sein du CNP cette année…

Nous avons aussi reçu les dernières informations  données par notre Conseillère juridique du SyndicatChloé Charbonneau-Jobin concernant  les plaintes faites contre  l’implantation du nouvel ajustement de poste à Genève. Ella a indiqué que 250 collègues ont fait appel contre la décision du DG, appliquée depuis avril 2018. Dans sa réplique, l’Organisation a choisi de présenter une défense politique et donc  a adopté une position contraire à celle qu’elle avait tenue durant toute la période précédant la décision d’appliquer l’ajustement de poste révisé au personnel basé à Genève. En attendant  un autre tour d’écriture  entre l’administration et le Syndicat,  on espère que le Tribunal rendra  sa décision au plus tôt  fin juin 2019.












Comme tous nos membres le savent, la vision et la mission du Syndicat ont  été définies pour une période de cinq ans (2015-2020) et seront débattues à nouveau lors de la réunion mondiale qui aura lieu l’année du centenaire du Syndicat en 2020.  Les objectifs plus détaillés pour 2019 ont été adoptés par cette AG avec des amendements proposant de mieux lier la réduction de l’empreinte carbone à certains sujets tels que le télétravail. Un autre amendement  a reçu un vif soutien : celui de créer un groupe de travail sur les préoccupations du personnel travaillant sous contrats  de coopération au développement (DC).

Nous remercions chaleureusement les membres pour avoir passé un peu de temps avec nous en ce jour de Saint-Valentin.











Anglais ⇒ ici

On Valentine’s Day, our members demonstrated their comradeship by showing up at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in good number. While there was much going on during the meeting, here are only the highlights – for those of you who couldn’t make it this time…

At the outset of the meeting, the President of the ILO Staff Union Catherine Comte-Tiberghien gave an update on the situation regarding the current negotiations with the administration. We were disappointed to hear that the re-establishment of meaningful dialogue in 2019 – after the events in 2018 which lead to disappointment and broken trust – is being hampered by the administration: Relevant documents for negotiations in the Joint Negotiation Board (JNC) were not sent with sufficient time in advance to allow the ILO Staff Union to prepare adequately for the important subjects on the table (diversity in recruitment and selection and proposed amendments to the ILO Staff Regulation, among others)! Fortunately, in our meeting with the Director-General after the AGM, he reaffirmed the need for reliable and predicable social dialogue” Stay tuned to hear what will happen in the JNC this year…

We were also given important news by the legal advisor of the Staff Union, Chloé Charbonneau-Jobin on the legal appeals against the revised post adjustment for Geneva. She explained that the ILO Staff Union had so far filed about 250 complaints against the decision of the Director-General, as implemented from April 2018. In its response, the Organization has chosen to present a political defence and, hence, adopted a position contrary to the position it had defended throughout the whole period preceding the decision to implement the revised post adjustment to the staff in Geneva. Pending another round of required written submissions between the ILO Staff Union and the administration, the Tribunal will render its decision, which is hoped to be delivered by the end of June 2019 this year.












As our members know, the vision for the ILO Staff union has been determined over a period of five years (from 2015-20), and will be renewed during the 100th anniversary of the ILO Staff Union in 2020. The specific objectives for 2019 to achieve this longer term vision were adopted by the AGM. Amendments included the need to emphasize the link between teleworking arrangements and the objective to achieve zero carbon emissions in 2050. Another amendment that received great support was the establishment of working group on the burning issues concerning Development Cooperation (DC) staff.

We thank all members for having attended and spent part of Valentine’s Day with us!!










French ⇒ here

A Movement to Transform our Workplace, and to Revive Social Dialogue

Social dialogue has been always a core value promoted by our Organization, to implement social justice and decent work for all across the globe. Meanwhile, recent events during the Governing Body in March 2018 demonstrate to all ILO Staff that social dialogue is under threat, and we must stand for this value within the ILO….

When trust is broken between two parties in the context of industrial relations, divorce is not a viable option. Instead, each party must reassess the state of the relationship, and determine how best to restore it, in a manner in which one’s own interests are more secure.

As ILO Staff, we still feel the pain and disappointment from the events of the Governing Body, during which we were witnesses to a surreal series of events that have made many of us question whether the principles of tripartism and social dialogue will continue to be upheld by our organization. UN Staff in other organizations felt our disappointment as well, as they witnessed the ILO, which had been leading the effort to advance International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) Reform over the past year, buckle under the pressure of a small number of Member states, and abandon the central tenant of tripartism:  consensus-based decision making by the constituents.

It is these principles of social dialogue and tripartism, which the Director General acknowledged « are tested in difficult times », which we must embody as staff, and in our union movement, if we are to play our part in restoring Social Dialogue within the ILO.

In a campaign that began against a Pay Cut , but which transformed into a global movement of No Confidence in the ICSC, we built an even stronger ILO Staff Union, which has the potential to truly transform our workplace, and to advance Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining within the UN System.

Social dialogue in the aftermath of the events at the Governing Body in March

It is not enough to maintain Social Dialogue at the Official Level in the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC). We must practice social dialogue in every unit, and in every duty station,  so that more workplace concerns and problems can be resolved at the lowest possible level.

We cannot rely on a wave of new Paternalism to secure the rights of staff, or to restore social dialogue in the ILO.  We can only rely on ourselves, and the support of our allies in the global labour movement.

In the short-term:

If we start by filing appeals against the ILO implementation of contested ICSC Decisions, wherever they are implemented, we’ll help build more transparent industrial relations in our house.

If we do more to mobilize staff in the field and in HQ in support of our negotiating agenda, we can be stronger in backing up our position at the bargaining table.

By standing firm against the implementation of other flawed ICSC decisions in ILO or elsewhere in the UN, whether that be in Bangkok, or Tokyo, we will build more momentum for changing the system.

In the medium term, and in the lead up to the Centenary:

We need to reiterate our challenge to the Director General: that he work to restore the ILO as a role model for social dialogue within the UN Common System.

Through efforts to chip away at the number of member States who have embraced the Austerity Agenda as a key driver of UN Reform, we have the opportunity to create the space for an alternative way forward.

By empowering and building the representative strength of our fellow unions in the UN Common System, to stand with us in common battles, we will be more prepared for the realization of Collective Bargaining in the UN Common System.

In all of these objectives, we will do well to remember the solidarity and common values of social justice that bind us together.

We are one Staff Union for one ILO Staff, and we must not stand still in realizing our agreed Vision and Mission.

We should be bold in restoring a new equilibrium in Industrial Relations within our workplace that builds a stronger voice for staff, and we must be resolute in our efforts to promote and practice social dialogue across the UN, in time for our Organization’s Centenary.


By Daniel Cork, 2nd Vice Chair, ILO Staff Union



On 21-22 March, we witnessed a disappointing chapter in the history of the ILO which left many of us wondering what tripartism means, and how far the ILO can live to its principles. We saw one of the wings of our precious governance mechanism cave in to the pressure of a small group of governments, with the argument of a three-level, contradictory responsibility to the ILO.  Frankly, it left us demoralized.

What exactly happened? The answer lies in the numbers.

At the beginning of the PFA segment discussion on the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) decision to reduce the pay of professional staff in Geneva, on the heels of several pay cuts in Bangkok, Tokyo and others. The Office paper recognized that the decision was plagued with defects and the follow-up with bad faith, but the points for decision included instructions for the Office to implement this illegal decision.  In the first round of comments, it was evident that the opposition to such a decision was majoritarian, with the two social partners and the African group against it, while Industrialized Market Economy Countries (IMEC), Asia and Pacific Group (ASPAG) and Europe plus two member states of the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC) were in support. Four GRULAC member states were completely silent, partly because of the lack of knowledge that UN General Assembly resolutions are NOT binding on the ILO.  This means:

In favour of pay cut

Against pay cut


18 34



The two social partners proposed different amendments. One would delete the instruction to implement; the other one would have blocked the pay cuts altogether.  It was a matter of them coming to an agreement on which proposal was better, which required another round of discussion.

However, before the groups were able to react to the proposal to block the pay cut, the floor was given to the Office—which promptly declared that the proposal to block the pay cut did not have enough support!  This was followed by the Office’s surprise declaration that it would implement the decision. The cryptic explanation: that it was better for all involved, including the staff (who were never informed).  As industrial relations specialists know, surprises are not the best practice that the ILO preaches worldwide.

That was the turning point in the discussion, caused by the untimely intervention by the Office. The debate turned acrimonious after that point, and by the time the next round of discussion was over, the support for each proposal stood as follows:

In favour of pay cut

Against pay cut Abstentions
32 20



At that point, one of the Vice-Chairs submitted a motion to submit the proposals to a vote. This motion was summarily denied because the Chair declare that there was a clear majority in the room.  The “Compendium of rules applicable to the Governing Body of the International Labour Office” states that “[i]t is for the person chairing the sitting, in agreement with the spokespersons of the respective groups to note the existence of a consensus.”  Since the motion came from one of the Vice-Chairs, there was clearly not such an agreement.  That’s when we went on strike for a day and a half, which we explain in another article.

After ten days, the Office held a “dialogue” session with the staff. On that occasion, for the first time the staff were informed that fourteen Member States which contribute 72% of the ILO’s budget had warned of severe consequences if we did not accept this arbitrary and perhaps fraudulent decision.  In the statement that was broadcast on 10 April, our Chairperson expressed the staff’s regret for the lack of dialogue that preceded and followed the GB.

Once again, let’s do the math:

Total Member States

Threatening Member States % of Member States involved Total weight in ILO tripartite system
187 14 ‹7.5%



In other words:

Total voting rights

Budget contribution Increase in decision-making power
3.75% 72%

19.2 times


This is a slippery slope. When a tiny minority of constituents manage to exercise majority power, they have veto power.  We don’t know when they will exercise it next, but we do know that they can.  Are they able to block Conventions or lines of work with threats?  Are the social partners still able to exercise their independence, which is the bedrock of tripartism?

Those in management who read this will realize that the staff is demoralized, unable to believe that the centenary governance system has failed under the pressure of an ideology of austerity. Or is it a revival of, please forgive me for using the forbidden word, colonialism?  Whichever it is, the ILO has combatted it vigorously and it is in retreat in most of the world.  But it has a new life in the ICSC.  Is the UN the last hiding place for those who espouse it?