UN staff need their union rights back
Just days before the recent terrorist attack on the UN facility in Mogadishu this June, staff in several UN bodies had their union rights unilaterally withdrawn by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Now the TUC has joined those demanding the withdrawal of union rights must be rescinded, with General Secretary Frances O’Grady writing direct to the Secretary General in New York, and to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague asking him to stand up for union rights for UN staff as – to do him credit – he has in countries like Fiji.
UN staff have drawn attention in particular to the health and safety implications for staff of losing their collective bargaining rights. In the last decade, 220 of their number have been killed in attacks, on top of 102 who died in the Haiti earthquake three years ago. Ahead of a 10th anniversary commemoration of the Baghdad bombing in which 22 UN staff died, Ian Richards, President of the UN staff union in Geneva, wrote at Huffington Post:
“We believe that union rights save UN lives. In order to help ensure the safety of colleagues who serve in the field, a credible negotiating framework between representatives of staff and management is essential. Without the ability to challenge decisions that may prove to be harmful to them, or even to speak up for themselves, our colleagues are helpless.”
And as Frances’ letter to the UN Secretary General points out, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) – itself part of the UN family, but with union rights intact – maintains that the rights to join a union and collectively bargain with employers are fundamental human rights. That’s also a point made by ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow, who is trying to negotiate with the UN Secretary General to get union rights restored.