WIPO Moves Slowly On Reduction In Compensation For Geneva-Based Staff 20/07/2017 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Earlier this year, the United Nations International Civil Service Commission called for a decrease in the compensation for the high cost of living for professional staff of Geneva-based United Nations agencies. At the World Intellectual Property Organization Program and Budget Committee last week, some countries asked why the decision was not reflected in the draft budget for 2018/2019. WIPO replied that discussions on the decision are ongoing among various agencies. Some 600 UN staff protest the proposed cut at the UN Palais in June The 26th session of the WIPO Program and Budget Committee (PBC), which took place from 10-14 July, was tasked to do a first reading of the draft proposed budget [pdf] for the next biennium 2018/2019. Following a decision by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) to ask for a decrease in the amount high-level staff get as a post adjustment to compensate the high cost of living in Geneva, some member states last week asked why this decrease was not reflected in the draft program and budget 2018/2019. Japan for Group B asked that WIPO take the ICSC’s decision into account. Spain asked that the draft program and budget be amended to reflect personnel expenditure figures according to the ICSC’s decision and the outcome of the consultations between Geneva-based organisations and the ICSC in Vienna. Spain was supported by countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Malaysia, and the group of Central European and Baltic States. Sweden said the country expects the implementation of the ICSC’s decision and added “it is unfortunate” that Geneva is talking about it as a wage cut, when the decision regards compensation for living expenses. The Swedish delegate said Sweden is concerned about the “prolonged unnecessary discussions.” According to WIPO Legal Counsel Frits Bontekoe, in view of the relevant jurisprudence for the International Labour Organization Administrative Tribunal, WIPO is under the obligation to carefully assess and consider the possible application of an ICSC decision with respect to its staff. In the past WIPO has been ordered to compensate staff impacted by unlawful implementation of decisions, he said, adding “WIPO has learnt its lesson.” It is necessary and prudent for WIPO following due diligence in this matter, he said. The organisation would be exposed legally and financially if it were to adopt a decision not properly supported, he said. At the opening of the session on 10 July, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said that Geneva-based agencies have undertaken a collective exercise of due diligence with respect to the decision of the ICSC, and a consequent submission has been made by those agencies to the ICSC. “The collective review that has been undertaken has revealed what we believe to be a number of significant flaws in both the methodology and the application of the methodology as well as data collection, which underlies the ISCS decision,” Gurry said. Geneva Front to Challenge Decision According to its website, the ISCS “is an independent expert body established by the United Nations General Assembly. Its mandate is to regulate and coordinate the conditions of service of staff in the United Nations common system (see below), while promoting and maintaining high standards in the international civil service.” Technical advice on the methodology of the post adjustment system is provided by an expert subsidiary body, and the Advisory Committee on Post Adjustment Questions. Salary scales for professional and higher categories are here. “The Professional and higher categories comprise five Professional grades (P-1 to P-5), two Director levels (D-1 and D-2), as well as the levels of Assistant Secretary-General and Under Secretary-General in some organizations and Assistant Director-General and Deputy DirectorGeneral in others,” according to the UN common system of salary [pdf]. “Post adjustment indices for duty stations, as determined by periodic place-to-place surveys conducted once every four or five years, are updated regularly to reflect changes due to inflation (local consumer price index (CPI)) and exchange rate fluctuations (local currency vis-à-vis the U.S. dollar). These updated post adjustment indices provide the basis for establishing the post adjustment classifications (multipliers) which directly determine net remuneration levels (base/floor salary plus post adjustment),” it says. The WIPO press office was not asked for clarification on the issue of compensation by press time. The office later clarified that the cuts would affect all levels of staff at WIPO [corrected]. The ICSC explanation of results [pdf] of the 2016 baseline cost-of-living surveys in headquarters duty stations released in May, shows a decrease in the Post Adjustment Index (PAI) for Geneva of 3.1 percent. The note explains that for salary setting purposes, the PAI is then translated into a Pay Index through the post adjustment multiplier (Pay Index = 100 plus multiplier). The Pay Index for Geneva as of 1 May, was established at – 7.7 percent. The difference from PAI and Pay Index is explained is the note as representing “the extent to which current operational rules have led to a deviation of the salaries from the underlying principle of equal purchasing power as measured in US dollars.” The Federation of International Civil Servants’ Association said in April that inflation in New York “far surpassed that in Geneva,” and the sustained strengthening of the US dollar against the Swiss franc contributed in the negative result for Geneva. “Roughly, the cut amounts to a month’s worth of pay, which means that we would still be working 12 months but being paid the equivalent to 11 months,” they said. “The Geneva-based staff associations/unions consider that this cut is unreasonable and are calling on their administrations to not comply with the ICSC’s decision,” they added. 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