United Nations staff in Geneva took part in a half-day strike on Monday afternoon to protest wage cuts. The work stoppage was part of a global campaign against purported deteriorating work conditions for UN staff around the world.
“We regret the inconvenience caused by today’s stoppage but feel there is no alternative after earlier attempts to address the issue did not succeed,” the UNOG Staff Coordinating Councilexternal link said in a statement on Monday.
Around 9,500 UN employees work in Geneva. An unknown number downed tools at the UN headquarters on Monday, causing various meetings to reportedly be suspended or disrupted. The strike took place during a busy week: about 100 heads of state, ministers and representatives of various countries are attending the 37th session of the Human Rights Council, as well as a Conference on Disarmament.
Monday’s statement said the Geneva stoppage was part of a wider union campaign for a “more transparent, participatory, balanced and fair process to determine staff pay and conditions”.
“The global campaign comes in the wake of a significant deterioration in conditions for UN staff around the world, particularly in field and peacekeeping missions. The most recent decisions include a pay cut of 5% for staff in Geneva as well as 10% in Bangkok and 25% in Tokyo,” it added.
Various actions are planned on Tuesday in Bangkok and other UN duty stations as part of the campaign.
In a letter sent last weekend to heads of UN agencies, UN staff unions in Geneva said personnel had lost confidence in the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), which sets pay and conditions. It said that "the reputation of the United Nations as an employer that treats its staff with respect and fairness has been tarnished". This letter was sent as staff received February salary slips containing the first phase of salary reductions of 3.5%. This will be further increased in June to 5%, according to UN union representatives.