The precarious situation of colleagues on Technical Cooperation contracts has long been a concern for the Staff Union. In 2017, a blog article was referring to a colleague’s situation, amongst many, and reflecting on this whole nonsense in the Organisation that is supposed to promote decent work. Has hope for better contracts since fainted in the Staff Union ? Not at all !
On 6 July, in a webinar attended by more than 150 colleagues from all regions, your Staff Union presented the detailed results of the all-staff survey on the impact of different contracts on the lives of ILO employees. Launched in 2022, the survey sought to gain insight into the concerns of staff and gather inputs on potential policy recommendations ahead of upcoming negotiations.
The survey confirmed what we already knew: the ILO exposes its staff to major decent work deficits. Compared to RB staff, so called DC* staff suffer shorter contract lengths, less notice about contract renewals, more involuntary contract gaps. These factors, combined with less knowledge about staff rights and entitlements, lead to higher levels of work insecurity, more limited legal entitlement to staff benefits and lower uptake rates among DC* staff who are legally eligible for staff benefits. On this last point, during the webinar several colleagues mentioned the need for the Administration and the Staff Union to design information sessions for new and current ILO staff on their rights and entitlements. The Union believes this is the responsibility of the Administration, but still seeks to support colleagues who are “lost” through its Union Stewards, local representatives, legal advisor, and is considering options for awareness raising at the global level too.
The survey exposed the multiple impacts of precarious contract situations, including losing access to social protection (e.g. health and unemployment insurance), losing one’s residency permit, changes in family formation decisions and challenges accessing external services (e.g. mortgage, loans, children education needs, etc.). During the webinar, colleagues again testified of rejected home loan applications, difficulties in renting an accommodation, in leave and family planning, by reason of precarious contracts. The survey revealed the inequal access to career development prospects felt by DC staff* notably due to its limited or absence of access to training funds and to development opportunities. Colleagues shared frustration during the webinar with regards to the limited access of DC staff* to RB-funded contracts, as well as the lack of recognition of many years of performance and of access to merit-increments. Others questioned the usefulness of End of Cycle exercises on ILO People, and of seniority, as these are not taken into account for promotion or recruitment purposes.
The 5 top priorities for the Union to address – as set by more than 90 per cent of respondents – were : security of employment, career opportunities, the possibility of having a career development path, equality of opportunity and treatment, and flexible working arrangements including teleworking.
Remarks from colleagues in the session also reflected that HRD’s attitude towards pregnant women on TC contracts needed to change, pointed at the absence of access to health benefits for children of colleagues on Short Term contracts and the lack of support for colleagues wrapping up projects, who need to find a new job. The mobility policy does not work for DC* staff, an issue the Union will raise during the upcoming negotiations on the subject.
Colleagues also asked to the Staff Union how to address the absence of transparency and of accountability in recruitment processes, and the non-systematic Staff Union participation in TC recruitment processes. The Union responded that the Staff Union participation in recruitment is indeed not the same in various regions and recruitment processes. The Union looks at the best practices to be able to promote the benefits of having Staff Union participation and continues to discuss this with the Administration. These discussions should take place at various levels given the heterogeneity of current practices.
Two colleagues enquired if the policy recommendations based on staff’s inputs could be discussed with ILO constituents at the November Governing Body, for the next biennium, or during the ILC. The Union explained that while it does not have a direct access to constituents, we should do everything we can to ensure that GB members are aware of the situation.
Several colleagues asked about the follow-up actions planned by the Union. The Union confirmed that negotiation on contracts is a top priority in the agenda of the Joint Negotiation Committee (JNC) and a key milestone is planned for October with dedicated days of negotiation on the issue. In preparation, the presentation and detailed survey report would be sent to the Administration, including to members of the JNC, HRD and the Senior Management Team (SMT) . The Union is using the many inputs from staff to design its strategy for negotiating better contracts.
We thank colleagues for their participation, for the many words of thanks received and the support proposed ! The Staff Union legal advisor remains at your disposal, and don’t forget that you can join the Staff Union’s Contracts and Employment Security working group at any time by writing to email@example.com
The recording and presentation used during the webinar as well as the report on the survey results are available on the Union’s website: How contractual arrangements impact our lives – ILO Staff Union
* The Staff Union usually uses the term « TC » for Technical Cooperation, and not « DC » for Development Cooperation, to reject the idea of the ILO seeking to « develop » other countries.
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