Employees of the United Nations in Geneva are planning a half-day strike on Tuesday to protest against wage cuts. The work stoppage would take place during a busy week, with dozens of ministers and officials expected at various events.
"We have tried other forms of protest in vain before," said Ian Richards, head of the Staff Coordinating Council at United Nations Office at Geneva, on Sunday. "They left us no choice."
According to Richards, the exact number of participants in Tuesday's strike and the effect it could have is not yet known. "But we certainly expect this to have an impact," he said. There are around 9,500 UN employees working in Geneva.
The strike will take place during a busy week: about 100 heads of state, ministers and representatives of various countries are expected to attend the 37th session of the Human Rights Council as well as the meetings of the Conference on Disarmament.
In a letter sent last weekend to heads of UN agencies, UN staff unions in Geneva warned that Tuesday would be "a first day of action (which will be) followed by others".
The letter deplores a "substantial deterioration in the working conditions of United Nations staff worldwide". It also says 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 reduction of 3.5%. This will be further increased in June to 5%, according to Richards.