37. The Council recalled that at its Sixtieth Session (Rome, 11–22 June 1973), it had decided that a salary survey should be conducted in Rome by an Ad Hoc Panel appointed for the purpose. 2 It further recalled that at its Sixty-First Session (Rome, 5–9 November 1973) it had authorized the Finance Committee to take decisions on the proposed new salary schedule and to report to the Council on the nature of these decisions. 3 The Council noted that the Ad Hoc Panel had completed its work early in 1974 and that the Finance Committee had considered the report of the Panel in its Thirty-First Session (Rome, 27 March – 9 April 1974). 4 To aid it in arriving at decisions the Finance Committee had before it the recommendations of the Director-General, who supported the proposals of the Ad Hoc Panel, and the comments of the staff. The decisions taken by the Finance Committee were not accepted by the staff and the sequence of events which culminated in the five days strike action in May began.
38. The Council emphasized at the outset that it could only regard this strike action with the utmost gravity. It stressed that the Organization's staff enjoyed a relatively privileged situation, that this was the second incidence of strike action in recent years, and that such events had been extremely detrimental to the interests and reputation of the Organization. It felt that the strike could have been avoided with better communication between management and staff and emphasized the absolute priority that had to be given by the Director-General to developing a coherent and consistent personnel policy which would be the basis of effective management/staff relations in the Organization. It felt it essential that strike action should not recur and that an atmosphere be created which could guarantee the efficient operation of the Organization and the concentration on the many important and substantial problems facing it. This, the Council emphasized, could be achieved only by effective personnel management. Council felt it necessary that, as part of this personnel programme, priority be given to improving present staff management skills in all areas and that, in future, attention be given to managerial as well as technical competence in the appointment process.
39. Whilst the Council recognized that the strike action was not solely a result of the action taken on General Service salaries, it nevertheless considered that this was the issue which had brought to a head the dissatisfaction of staff. The Council emphasized its appreciation of the work of the Ad Hoc Panel under the able chairmanship of Ambassador Frochaux. Similarly, the Council commended without reservation the work of the Finance Committee. It noted that the Finance Committee had thoroughly investigated the claims of the staff that the Guiding Principles had not been adhered to and had concluded not only that this was not the case but that wherever interpretations had proved necessary these had invariably been made in favour of the staff.
40. The Council was advised that prior to strike action, the staff had formed a Joint Action Committee which had presented to Management a series of demands. The reply of the Director-General to these demands had been considered unacceptable by the staff and the strike had taken place. The Council was further advised that throughout the strike negotiations had continued with the Joint Action Committee and these had resulted in an Agreement being drawn up between the Director-General and the Joint Action Committee of the staff. The Council noted that this Agreement was presented to it by the Director-General for consideration of the three specific items therein reported to the Council for decision.
41. Nevertheless, some of the other matters included in the Agreement, on which decisions were made by the Director-General on his own authority, were considered as needing close examination for the future of the Organization, and particularly the question of tenure of appointment. The Council therefore stressed the need for the Director-General to give due regard to Council guidance on all matters, whether or not they were strictly within the competence of the Director-General. In this vein it was emphasized that the good of the Organization could only be achieved by an awareness on behalf of management of the importance of frank and honest communication not only with staff but also with the Council and its Committees.
42. The Council confirmed the right of staff of all categories, wherever located, to organize and to negotiate with management on the basis that in matters within his authority, the Director-General retained the right of final determination.
43. The specific points presented to the Council by the Director-General for decision were those identified in the Agreement between the Director-General and the Joint Action Committee of the staff as requiring prior approval from the Council before implementation. The first of these referred to the access of recognized representatives of the staff to the governing bodies. The Agreement stated that:
“… In matters relating to terms and conditions of employment which require the approval of the Finance Committee or the Council, it is agreed that management will propose to the Council that, in the event that it is not possible to present to the Finance Committee or Council agreed recommendations on these matters, recognized staff representative body/bodies shall have the right of access to present its/their case to the Finance Committee or, where the matter is referred to the Council, to the Council itself.”
44. The Council was aware that the granting of a right would impose an obligation on it to hear the staff whatever the particular circumstances of the case. Further, it considered that the outcome could result in attempts to oblige the Council and its Committees to adopt the role of arbitrator between the Director-General and the staff, thus diluting the responsibility and authority of the Director-General for the detailed management of the Organization. The Council therefore decided that it could not approve this recommendation. It would expect the Director-General, when submitting staff proposals to the Council and its Committees, to have consulted the staff, and if there were disagreement it would regard it as primarily the responsibility of the Director-General to present both views. Although sound management/ staff relations should ensure that, in future, access to the Council would be sought only in exceptional and grave circumstances the Council would be prepared to continue to consider on a case by case basis any application for the privilege of access, provided this application enjoyed the full backing of the Director-General.
45. The remaining decisions requested of the Council related to General Service salaries and specifically the proposed departures from the Finance Committee decisions. At the outset the Council expressed its regret that the just and objective decisions arrived at by the Finance Committee had not been implemented in their entirety, particularly in view of the fact that these decisions had been taken on the advice of and with the full support of the Director-General, and that the Council itself had authorized the Finance Committee to take decisions on this matter. The Council noted that the scales themselves were not essentially different from the Finance Committee scales in terms of the take-home pay of the staff. It regretted however that there were significant deviations from the Finance Committee decisions, and in particular that the pay of the higher grades retained on a personal basis under the Finance Committee decisions had now been incorporated into the base scale. This was seen as undermining the ability to bring the pay of higher grades into line with outside remuneration over a period of time.
46. The first issue for decision by the Council on salaries related to the adjustment to scales for each 5 percent increment in the Rome Salary Index. The Finance Committee, after making deductions for Income Tax and Commissary savings, had decided that this adjustment should be at the rate of 3 percent for the first four movements and that thereafter the rate should be reset following a review by the Finance Committee of both the Income Tax and Commissary factors. The proposal now before the Council was that the adjustment should be at the rate of 4.3 percent for G-1, 4.2 percent for G-2 and 4.0 percent for G-3 and G-4. This, in effect, was a recommendation for the non-application of the Commissary savings element pending further study and decision by the Finance Committee in October. The Council noted that this request reflected the view of both the Director-General and the staff that this issue warranted further study and that it was the intention of the Director-General to apply the decision of the Finance Committee in October retroactively to 1 June. The Council agreed to refer this matter to the Finance Committee, which would make recommendations to the next session of the Council. In the meantime, the revised rates of adjustment as outlined above would be provisionally applied.
47. The second issue on the salary question for decision by the Council was the adjustment to scales for each movement of the Wage Index for grades G-5 to G-7. As stated in paragraph 46 above, the Finance Committee had established a reduced scale for these grades which was to be adjusted by 3 percent for each Wage Index movement. The higher salaries of staff already in the grades were to be maintained on an ad personam basis and to be adjusted by 1 percent for each 5 percent movement until such time as overtaken by the scale rates. These higher ad personam rates were now incorporated in the base scales and the Director-General recommended that the appropriate rate of adjustment, were his proposals for the G-1 to G-4 grades approved, would be 3 percent. The Council recognized that this proposal could not be considered independently of the proposal concerning the junior grades and accordingly referred this matter also to the Finance Committee, which would make recommendations to the next session of the Council. In the meantime, it decided that the rate of adjustment for these grades should provisionally be 3 percent as recommended by the Director-General.
48. In arriving at these decisions on the question of salaries, the Council was aware that it was amending some of the decisions taken by the Finance Committee. It stressed that this in no way cast any doubt on the correctness of the Finance Committee decisions. It emphasized that, while all Member Governments should be kept fully informed through their representatives and by other means, in future the Council would not be prepared to consider any recommendation from the Director-General which had not been subject to prior review, in accordance with correct procedure, by the Finance Committee.
49. For the remainder of the Agreement, the Council decided that it should remain operative, but on a provisional basis; that the various issues should be subject to detailed review by the Finance Committee in October, and that the recommendation of the Finance Committee should be considered by the next session of the Council for final determination. With specific reference to the new survey, the Council agreed that the timetable established in the Agreement should be adhered to if possible but added that a progress report, especially concerning the methodology accepted by the parties, should be made to the Finance Committee in October and that the Finance Committee should report thereon to the next session of the Council. The Council also emphasized that the results of the new survey must be binding on both management and staff.
50. In response to questions raised, the Council was assured that the Agreement on tenure of appointment for General Service staff at Headquarters was being extended immediately to General Service staff at Regional Offices. It was also assured that following the strike, there would be absolutely no discriminatory treatment of staff members whether or not they participated in the strike action.
51. As regards terms and conditions of appointment and employment the Council recalled that FAO as a UN Specialized Agency should not depart from the rules in force within the UN system. The Council expressed concern over the question of tenure of appointment for General Service personnel, which it felt had an important bearing on the ability of the Organization to respond to changes in programme. It accordingly requested the Director-General to take careful note of the practices in other agencies and to give due consideration to the need for programme flexibility. It was emphasized that in future, information on this aspect should be provided in the documentation on any issue that had a bearing on the common system. In this connection the wish was expressed that benefit would be derived with respect to conditions of both Professional and General Service staff from the work of the International Civil Service Commission.
52. In undertaking the review of the salary issue and of the Agreement as a whole, the Director-General, and the Finance Committee were instructed to take full note of the points raised in the Council debate and contained both in the report and in the verbatim records thereof. It was further agreed that the Finance Committee and the CCLM would extend their examination to all related issues bearing on management/staff relations. Similarly, the Finance Committee and the CCLM were instructed to consider the appropriateness of the present recruitment area for General Service staff and more particularly to consider whether it would be appropriate for the Staff Rules to be amended so that at Headquarters a local staff member should be any person recruited in Italy, regardless of nationality.
53. The Council wished staff relationships to be conducted on the basis of fullest possible communication and consultation, consistent with the responsibility of the Director-General for staff management within general staff policy as established by the Council. The Council reaffirmed that the responsibility for management/staff relations rested with the Director-General, subject to any decisions or policies adopted by the Council.
54. In conclusion the Council reaffirmed its regret that it had been asked to study this matter without its prior referral to the Finance Committee. It emphasized that its decisions were taken in recognition of the gravity of the situation and stressed that these decisions in no way detracted from the genuine confidence the Council held in the Director-General, nor should they be interpreted as a failure by the Council to exercise its authority.
1 CL 63/3, CL 63/6, CL 63/7, CL 63/INF/10, CL 63/INF/13, CL 63/PV/4, CL 63/PV/5, CL 63/PV/6, CL 63/PV/7, CL 63/PV/8, CL 63/PV/10.
2 CL 60/REP, paras 270–273.
3 CL 61/REP, para. 177.
4 CL 63/3, paras 9–59.