STATEMENT BY THE ITU STAFF COUNCIL, first meeting of SC-ADM, Tuesday 11 June 2019
STATEMENT BY THE ITU STAFF COUNCIL, ninth meeting of SC-ADM, Wednesday 19 June 2019
Statement of 11 June 2019
The ITU Staff Council would you like to share with Council members the following concerns:
- Digital transformation is introducing deep changes in several sectors of the economy. ITU cannot stay static in front of this revolution. We invite ITU membership to provide further guidelines on how ITU should adapt to support digital transformation in a way that benefits all.
- Conditions of work for ITU staff have deteriorated as a result of the implementation of the ICSC decisions, forcing staff to take action collectively in the ILO administrative tribunal. In addition cost saving strategies have led to the accumulation of work and the downgrading of staff posts.
- Discussions on the way forward for the new building are not prioritizing functional needs. We invite Council members to keep in mind that the goal of the project is to equip ITU the necessary facilities for the Union to perform its functions.
To address these issues, the ITU Staff Council would like to invite Council to consider the following actions:
- To strengthen ITU, allocating the necessary resources to implement the new ITU Strategic Plan and implement the recommendations, resolutions and decisions from PP18 within your administrations.
- To revert the trend that has led to the deterioration of conditions for ITU staff, by taking staff concerns into account when reviewing proposals liked to staff issues in the ADM committee.
- To prioritize functionality in the discussions linked to the new building, and to avoid taking decisions that will deteriorate working conditions during the construction process as well as in the future of ITU.
- To examine favourably, approve and fund the new HR management and development strategy for the Union.
The ITU Staff Council also urges the ITU administration to take the following actions:
- To move ahead with the implementation of the new HR strategic plan once adopted by Council,
- To adopt an effective and conducive style of leadership that will promote creativity, innovation and staff mobility across the organization,
- To create a safe environment for all staff where there is no room for harassment, abuse of authority or unethical behaviour.
Mr Deputy Secretary-General
Directors of the three Bureaux
It is my honour to speak to you today behalf of the ITU Staff Council,
This session of the ITU Council opens a new period for the Union, with a new Council, a new management and with a renewed commitment from all of you, ITU Member States, to work together to connect the world and build a sustainable future by 2030 through the use of ICTs.
The vision is ambitious, as it focuses on the goals and targets included in the new ITU Strategic Plan. Ambitious but achievable, if we all work together and allocate the necessary resources to turn this vision to action, and action into results.
ITU Staff represents a rich and diverse workforce at your service.
The 669 staff members from 96 nationalities, as well as the short-term staff, SSAs and interns are here to support you and to implement the mandate given by the 2018 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference.
We appreciate the effort made by your administrations to contribute to ITU, by contributing to the budget of the Union, by hosting ITU activities, conferences and workshops, or by participating regularly in our work.
ITU Staff is committed, excited and thrilled with the challenge ahead of us. However we are also concerned on three specific issues that we would like to raise to your attention today.
First of all, the ITU Staff Council would like to signal the deep changes that are taking place in the world as part of the ubiquitous “digital transformation" of this decade. ICTs are at the centre of this transformation, and so should ITU.
As this transformation advances, we face new challenges in implementing the mandate of ITU. The ITU Staff Council believes that this new reality is partially reflected in the outcomes of PP-18.
ITU membership cannot stay static in front of the digital revolution, and we rely on your guidance to advance on these issues, as well as to undertake the necessary transformations to make ITU “fit for purpose".
Only by engaging, collaborating and coordinating with all the relevant stakeholders of the expanded digital ecosystem can we really ensure that new technological solutions are inclusive, interoperable, sustainable and secure.
The choice is simple: to be in the driver's seat and steer our digital transformation in a way that is beneficial for all, or to be in the passenger seat and be driven by technology in, what could easily be ,precarious and unpredictable ways.
The ITU Staff Council invites Council delegates to take this concern into consideration when reviewing the documents relevant to the implementation of ITU's mandate and to provide further guidance on how you would like the Union to move forward.
Our second concern is regarding the deterioration of the conditions of work at ITU.
You will, hopefully, all be aware of the recent decisions taken by the International Civil Service Commission to reduce the compensation and benefits that staff members receive for their work. The latest of these decisions was the reduction of the post adjustment scale for Geneva, resulting in approximately a 7% decrease in the salary for professional staff. This is just one of many decisions that have impacted negatively on ITU staff.
The way the ICSC has taken its decisions has made many staff across the UN lose their trust in this body. The UN should lead by example and honour contractual agreements. Since ITU Staff cannot accept what has turned out to be an arbitrary decision, we have challenged it at the ILO Administrative Tribunal. We have done this in a transparent way and collectively. It is our right, but it is also our duty to do so.
As the administrative process moves forward, we raise this issue today as an example of the importance of investing in staff and respecting the conditions of work. We are not asking for more, we are simply asking for fair treatment.
Living in Geneva is very expensive. Salaries in the UN system are frozen and the cost of living continues to increase. Geneva attracts private sector organizations that are pushing the costs up with their compensation packages. This is forcing many staff - in particular the staff that joined ITU in the last fifteen years - to live further away from the office, increasing commuting times and with negative implications for work-life balance.
In addition, we are also concerned by the current practice of downsizing the number of staff and downgrading vacant posts, a trend is leading to an increasing workload across ITU.
If these two trends continue the Union will struggle to attract and retain the necessary talent in order to fulfil its mandate.
The ITU Staff Council urges the members of the Council to revert these trends and take these concerns into account when reviewing the proposals that will be presented at the ADM linked to the conditions of work of staff, including salary, but also on issues related to the pension system or the health insurance, amongst others.
Our third area of concern is the new building.
Although we understand the complexities of the project, the ITU Staff Council is concerned due to the number of actors, bodies and instances currently involved in the process.
The ITU Staff Council would like to remind all parties that the goal of the exercise is to equip ITU with the necessary facilities in order to perform our mandate.
Above all, the new building will be a working environment for staff, a venue for hosting delegates and a meeting place to bring together a wide variety of stakeholders, including during the construction period.
The ITU Staff Council urges delegates and the ITU administration to keep this goal in mind when moving the discussions ahead this week. Please consider the needs of staff both during the construction process, and once that the new building is in place. Don't reduce expenses at our expense.
The results may end up being more costly in the future, in terms of working environment, health-related issues, offices and meeting rooms un-fit for purpose, which could lead to further costs to retrofit ITU facilities in the future.
Functionality and wellbeing should remain a priority, over aesthetics or politics.
We ask you to give priority to expert opinions and to incorporate the inputs from the ITU Staff Council when allocating budget and making decisions related to the project.
The ITU Staff Council would also like to propose specific solutions to address the challenges that we just mentioned.
The first specific proposal is to invite you to examine favourably and approve the new proposed HR management and development strategy for the Union. This strategy has been prepared by the administration with inputs from all in ITU, including the ITU Staff Council, in the understanding that the proposal is a living document that will evolve with the needs of the organization.
This new HR strategy is forward-looking and includes positive elements that, if implemented, will represent a move in the right direction to attract and retain the talent that ITU will need in the future, as well as to motivate, develop and support the wellbeing of current ITU staff.
Although we remain in disagreement with the latest decisions from ICSC, we share the spirit of the document presented to you, which puts emphasis on the need to support and invest in the development of ITU staff and to establish an enabling working environment for them.
And since a strategy is only good if it is implemented, our second proposal is to invite Council members to make sure that the 2020-2021 budget incorporates enough resources to support the implementation of this plan.
The ITU Staff Council considers that budget allocated to staff is not a cost, but an investment in the future of ITU. We invite you to look at the budget through this optic over the forthcoming days.
On this line, we would like to propose the inclusion of a provision in the budget to allocate 10% of the eventual savings made in the annual budget to further support the implementation of the HR strategy, in particular in the area of staff development.
We also invite you to monitor closely the implementation of this plan in future sessions of the Council, asking the ITU administration to provide concrete indicators on the results achieved by the actions undertaken within the plan.
Finally, we also have a proposal for the ITU administration.
The ITU Staff Council urges the ITU administration to move ahead with the implementation of the new HR strategic plan policy in a coherent and consistent way, and to start applying from today the main principles and actions included in this document.
We would like to remind you that ITU staff is your main asset: you will get the best results from us not through micromanagement but by adopting an effective and encouraging style of direction.
We urge you to promote creativity, innovation and staff mobility across the organization and to lead by example in establishing a workplace that rewards results, efficiency and quality of work over obedience or politics. A safe working environment in which, as the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres said, there is no room for harassment, abuse of authority or unethical behaviour and in which proper policies to protect whistle-blowers are respected.
We also encourage you to ensure the implementation of a digital transformation at ITU and accelerate the introduction of modern working methods, such as flexible working arrangements across ITU and teleworking.
You trusted us to join ITU, please keep trusting us to be the unapparelled and devoted “ambassadors" of the vision and mission of ITU that you can be proud of.
Dear Council members
We would like to conclude our remarks today by renewing our commitment to work for you, our Member States.
We invite you to continue counting on our expertise and commitment to advise you on the decisions that you will have to make during this session of the Council, as well as throughout the next 4 years.
For many the world has never been better, but our global visions and ambitions have never been greater either: connecting everybody and achieving the goals of the Sustainable Development Agenda by 2030.
You can count on ITU staff to work with you side by side to turn this vision into action.
Thank you very much for your attention
The ITU Staff Council