Background

The HLCM Vice-Chair opened this discussion by recalling that the HLCM Strategic Plan 2013-2016 is aimed at making “the system organizations more adaptive and agile in delivering their programmatic mandates.“ This should be seen as a key consideration for the ongoing Review of the UN Compensation Package, which is highlighted as one of the priority areas in the Plan.

The HLCM Vice-Chair informed the Committee that the Statement prepared by HLCM at its 26th session had been fully endorsed and subsequently adopted by the Executive Heads at CEB. She also highlighted that the Secretary General of the United Nations drew the attention of ICSC Commissioners to the CEB Statement and to the collective needs of UN system organisations, when addressing the ICSC at its 78th session in March 2014 in New York. 

The Committee was presented with a brief overview of the review progress from the organisations’ perspective, provided by the HLCM Vice-Chair and the Co-Chairs of the HR Network, who informed HLCM that the ICSC Chair and Vice-Chair had held consultations with several Executive Heads or other Senior Managers in fall of 2013. The views of staff were sought through a global staff survey conducted between September and November 2013. The HR Network had been very active in this review, by discussing organisational needs and positions in two dedicated retreats, active involvement in the three ICSC Working Groups and the gathering and analysis of internal and external data and information. This work resulted in a common issues document of the HR Network that was presented to the ICSC at its last session. This document was shared and discussed with the HLCM Strategic Group at its meeting on 31 March and was presented at the HLCM meeting, where it was well received.

The HLCM Vice-Chair welcomed the Vice-Chairman of the ICSC and invited him to give an update of the progress of the review, from the point of view of the Commission. He confirmed that the common issues presentation was well received by ICSC, and that the views presented were largely in line with the current thinking in the Commission. With reference to a recent ICSC update at the 5th Committee of the UN General Assembly, he confirmed that the ICSC will analyse areas such as the base pay structure (grades and steps), a cost-neutral redefinition of the base floor level, the possibility to merge the two salary scales into one, alternative approaches to staff assessment and tax equalization, post adjustment and rental subsidy as well as other benefits such as education grant and mobility and hardship entitlements for which rationale and scope would be reviewed. He also confirmed the importance the ICSC attaches to an adequate level of field-based entitlements, the introduction of performance-based pay elements and the expressed need for degrees of flexibility by the organisations. He welcomed further detailed proposals by the organisations on all these items in the further course of the review. He also drew the attention of the Committee to other aspects of the current ICSC work and respective General Assembly resolutions, including the request to freeze all benefits and allowances until the review results were submitted to the UN General Assembly in fall 2015, the implementation of a margin management procedure resulting in an effective freeze of the New York post adjustment index and the continuing discussions on the Mandatory Age of Separation for existing staff and on the share of health insurance premiums between organisations and staff members. 

Discussion

During the subsequent discussion, many organisations stressed the need for a future common system that, while cohesive at its core, provides more flexibility to cater for the individual mandates, structures and operating models. Several Specialized Agencies stressed the importance of enhancing attractiveness for technical experts and specialists. Some organisations with strong field presence highlighted again that the change in Rest & Recuperation provisions had led to a significant and undesired decrease in the uptake of this entitlement. They also called for a review of the current classification of family / non-family duty stations in order to more accurately reflect the suitability of duty stations to expatriate family life. Many organisations welcomed that the ICSC suggested reviewing the current use of National Professional Officers. 

Many organisations affirmed the desirability to implement performance-based pay elements in a flexible and adaptive way. They also stressed the importance for reduction of administrative burden for organisations, and the need for better cost predictability in the budgeting processes. They confirmed that the present salary scale has become too compressed during the last decades and called for a review of this fact. It was seen as an important challenge and task to devise a system that is catering for both field-based organisations and Headquarter-based Specialised Agencies alike. Furthermore, the Committee stressed that evidence-driven discussions based on sound financial modelling will be needed in order to ensure adequate review results.   

Staff Federations welcomed the review and confirmed their willingness to collaborate in the working groups and with the organisations in general. They expressed some concern that the review might focus predominantly on cost containment. They expressed interest in being informed of the outcome of the current pilots in order to draw lessons learnt for the planned introduction of performance-based pay elements. Some interventions pertained to the interdependencies between the compensation package, the contractual framework and workforce planning.  

Several organisations stressed the need for enhanced coordination among the organisations and for planned active communication between the organisations, staff and Member States.  The suggestion to prepare at a later stage an additional, more detailed HLCM Statement on the Compensation Review was welcomed, as was the continued regular guidance of the HLCM Strategic Group to the HR Network. 

Action

The Committee:

  • Took note of the update on the progress of the review of the UN Compensation Package provided by the HR Network.
  • Confirmed its full support and commitment for an active engagement and collaboration with ICSC in this exercise.
  • Reiterated that the future Compensation Package must adhere to the key principles reflected in the CEB Statement on the ICSC Compensation Review. 
  • Reiterated its request that discussions and subsequent recommendations must be objective and based on relevant facts, data and evidence.