72nd Council of FICSA

A delegation from the CERN Staff Association participated in the Council of the Federation of International Civil Servants' Associations (FICSA), which was held from 4 to 8 February 2019 in Vienna, Austria, in the premises of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Preparatory Commission. Participation in the Council always provides an opportunity for very enriching exchanges of experience and ideas, but it also helps to realize the progress made by some organisations on certain issues. 

What is FICSA?

The Federation of International Civil Servants’ Association (FICSA) was established in 1952 and currently brings together more than 80 staff associations or unions of international or intergovernmental organisations.

A distinction is made between members (29), who come from the United Nations Common System, and associate members (18), who are outside the Common System. FICSA also has 15 staff associations from other organisations as advisory members, and more than 20 local federations, which gather United Nations local staff associations with observer status. Some of these staff associations are in small organisations of a few dozen members. Others come from large agencies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which counts approximately an equal number of civil servants as CERN.

The CERN Staff Association is an associate member of FICSA as CERN is not part of the United Nations Common System. We participate in the FICSA Council and its deliberations, with limited voting rights. Overall, CERN is one of the most active members of FICSA; and our voice is heard!

What are the objectives and actions of FICSA?

The objectives of FICSA are:

1. To defend staff rights;

2. To ensure that the conditions of service of the staff in the Common System are maintained at a level, which ensures the recruitment and retention of highly, qualified personnel;

3. To contribute to a positive image of the international public service.

FICSA's annual work programme and on-going programmes include the following activities:

1. Inform all staff members of problems affecting their conditions of employment;

2. Organize training, seminars and working groups on specific issues related to conditions of employment;

3. Advise members of FICSA-affiliated associations or unions on staff-administration

4. Produce documents of the Federation's position on the technical aspects of the employment conditions;

5. Coordinate strike movements;

6. Support and assist in appeal procedures (internal appeal procedures, administrative tribunals), in the case of non-compliance with employment conditions;

7. Develop strategies to prevent violation of rights;

8. Advocate for the positions of staff members with representatives of Member States.

The Council process

Traditionally, the weekend preceding the FICSA Council is dedicated to a few preparatory meetings, but it is also the occasion for one or two training sessions for delegates attending the Council.

This year, an international lawyer defending staff members before the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization (ILOAT) came to explain to delegates how to effectively prepare internal appeals before the Tribunal, the points not to be missed (including before an appeal) and the possible pitfalls. The training was comprehensive and interesting, followed by engaging discussion with remarkable interventions from one of your CERN staff delegates.

On Monday morning, the Council was opened in plenary session with administrative items, followed by addresses by the Secretary General of the CTBTO, the President of the CTBTO Staff Association and finally the new President of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC[3]) who is responsible for establishing and reviewing the employment conditions for staff throughout the United Nations Common System.

The Council then suspended its meeting and from Monday afternoon to Thursday evening, the work was split across each of the specialized Standing Committees and ad-hoc Committees set up during the Council.

The Council meeting resumed on Friday with a presentation of the work and conclusions of each of the Committees and the themes proposed for inclusion in the 2019 FICSA work programme.

Topics covered

In addition to the subject of ICSC's review of the methodology and operational rules for salary adjustments, which was again one of the themes closely followed by FICSA this year, it is worth mentioning:

The increased use of non-staff contracts and its impact on the United Nations system

The FICSA Council is concerned about the increasing proportion of "non-staff" personnel and its impact on the employment and working conditions of the staff. It was noted that there was no clear and unified definition of the concept of "non-staff" personnel and their rights and

benefits, if any. Like at CERN, the use of short-term staff is becoming more significant, and our colleagues fear a loss of knowledge and increased difficulties in ensuring the sustainability of the key tasks entrusted to their organisations.

Proposed amendments to the ILOAT Statute

Staff associations have expressed great concern about amendments proposed by some organisations to the Statute of the ILO Administrative Tribunal (ILOAT). In the words of one of the most well-known staff lawyers, these amendments would be a "real disaster" for the staff of all organizations, which have accepted the jurisdiction of the ILOAT.

Three organizations have recently withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the ILOAT (WMO, UPU and CTA), having expressed different reasons but apparently linked to recent judgments against them. Some organizations wish to amend the Statute of the Tribunal to allow for prompt withdrawals from its jurisdiction, with a minimum of requirements.

The CERN Staff Association has been particularly active and proactive on this issue throughout the Council. The Council unanimously adopted a recommendation strongly condemning the pressure exerted by the organisations.

Protection of whistle-blowers

For more than a year now, FICSA has been working on how to protect whistle-blowers. A new workshop, led by United Nations experts on the subject, was hosted by ITU in Geneva on 15 November 2018.

The participants reviewed the current situation throughout the United Nations Common System, identified key gaps in whistle-blower protection and discussed options for addressing them. Emphasis was also placed on the practical advice and support that staff representatives could give to whistle-blowers within their organisation.

FICSA: why does the CERN Staff Association participate?

Although CERN is not part of the United Nations Common System, the CERN Staff Association has a strong interest in being part of FICSA and participating in the work of the Federation.

Indeed, the various participating staff associations can thus share their experiences and ideas, exchange with experienced colleagues on specific topics, jointly prepare answers on common subjects (for example, strongly oppose the proposal to reform the ILOAT Statute).

This privileged moment also allows us to realize that while we have occasionally more favourable or advanced conditions than in other organisations, we are generally less well off. We can therefore draw inspiration from the best conditions offered elsewhere, but also realize that the work to be done remains immense and that we must never let ourselves take the financial and working conditions for granted.

Beyond these aspects, being together gives tremendous energy and renewed motivation, but also a comfort to share with other staff delegates the same desire to serve our organisations, being convinced that this also requires respect and consideration of the interests of staff members.

It is essential to show support and solidarity in the particularly difficult situations where some of our colleagues face openly conflictual relations with their Administration or Management.





by Staff Association