Thursday, 11 November 2010

U.N. labour agency staff threaten industrial action


* ILO staff union questions credibility of agency's edicts

* Dispute concerns job security, hiring process, bargaining

GENEVA, Nov 9 (Reuters) - International Labour Organisation staff will meet on Wednesday to consider their first global industrial action, alleging the U.N. agency does not uphold the standards it is urging others to meet.

Christopher Land-Kazlauskas, chair of the ILO Staff Union Committee, said too many of the ILO's 3,000 workers are on precarious short-term contracts and called for more transparent hiring processes and acceptance of collective bargaining.

"We believe it is hypocritical that the ILO cannot apply inside its own walls the policies that it promotes to the G20, to the International Monetary Fund and to governments, employers and workers the world over," he said in a statement.

An e-mailed request for comment from the ILO on the allegations, including that the ILO censored communications from the union and interfered with the hiring of union staff, was not immediately responded to.

Short-term contracts are common in the United Nations system and can limit workers' possibilities to rent apartments, access benefits and plan their lives.

Salaries, which at the ILO like other international organisations are offered tax-free, are not at issue in the dispute, which has flared up during a Nov. 4-19 meeting of the ILO's Governing Body.

In a report released on Monday, the ILO urged G20 leaders meeting in Seoul to focus on "productive employment and job-intensive growth policies" given still-high unemployment following the global financial crisis. [ID:LDE6A71V8]

Staff union members will meet on Wednesday afternoon at the ILO's Geneva headquarters "to take decisions on the industrial action to be carried out during the Governing Body and beyond."

It was not clear whether a full strike was among the options being considered. The union described the planned "global job action" as the first in the ILO's 90-year history."

On its website, the ILO says its main aims "are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue in handling work-related issues." (Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Charles Dick)

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