Category

Disputas Laborales

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UN fails to protect whistleblowers: the importance for International Civil Servants of protection by independent legal counsel.

By | Derecho Administrativo, Disputas Laborales, Funcionarios Públicos, News | No Comments

UN, NEW YORK

The United Nations Dispute Tribunal has found the international organisation’s mechanisms for dealing with whistleblowers to be so “fundamentally flawed” that they fail to protect the basic rights of its employees.  In its ruling in the case of Wasserstrom (judgment to be published), the Tribunal held that the UN Ethics Office failed to protect the applicant against reprisals from his bosses.  James Wasserstrom, an American diplomat, was sacked and then detained by UN Police, who proceeded to ransack his flat, search his car and post his picture on a wanted poster after he expressed suspicions in 2007 about corruption in senior ranks of the UN Mission in Kosovo.

The clear lack of protection for UN staff members encapsulated in this case is confirmed by the statistics.  The Guardian (27th June 2012) cites statistical analysis by the Washington based Government Accountability Project (GAP), which found that out of 297 cases in which whilstleblowers complained of retaliation, the Ethics Office fully sided with the complainant once in six years.  Statements made by GAP confirm the importance for international civil servants of seeking independent legal advice and protection when they find themselves in the position of whilstleblower.  Bea Edwards, GAP Executive Director remarked:

“Like any internal office in an international institution, it is always subjected to huge pressures from above.”  She continued, “It is very difficult for an official employed by the institution to be impartial”.

It is a view which is confirmed by the experience of the team at Bretton Woods Law: the rights of, and the protections afforded to, individuals working within international organisations are all too often subjugated by realpolitik.

Indeed, the attitude of those within the UN towards whilstleblowers was succinctly summed-up by Wasserstrom who remarked:

“I was told at some point in the whole process that the UN didn’t want a ‘culture of snitches’.  What has grown up instead is a culture completely insulated from reality.  It’s a culture of impunity.”

As well as raising concerns about staff exposure to fundamental failings in the UN system, the case is also of assistance to those seeking redress as it adds validity to the approach of directing such grievances to the Secretary General, as the office-holder with ultimate responsibility for the Ethics Office.

If you have concerns about whilstleblowing, contact Bretton Woods Law for impartial confidential advice.

time

SP – Time waits for no one – especially not International Civil Servants

By | Derecho Administrativo, Disputas Laborales, Funcionarios Públicos, News | No Comments

More often than not, when International Civil Servants come knocking on our door, seeking employment advice, we are alarmed by their lack of knowledge regarding their employment status and rights. The fact that they are often unaware that they are subject to International Administrative Law, the law that operates between International Civil Servants and their employer, and not domestic employment laws, is just one such example.

Why there is such a dearth of understanding is debatable, but we felt it might be useful to compile a brief list of basic ‘do’s and do not’s’, for when/if International Civil Servants find themselves in difficulties with their employer. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and we would encourage anyone facing HR issues to contact legal specialists, such as members of Bretton Woods Law as quickly as possible – because as the title suggests in these situations time is of the essence

The Do’s

  1. Do make yourself aware and be confident of your rights and, indeed, your obligations under the internal law of the organisation that you work for (e.g., read the Staff Regulations, Staff Handbook, and the rules and procedures associated with your organisation’s internal justice mechanism).
  2. Do act quickly if you have a complaint, for you may only have a short period of time in which to file.
  3. Do ensure that your dealings with HR are in writing, if possible.  It is important to create an audit trail.
  4. Do take notes at any meeting that you have with HR representatives.  At the conclusion of the meeting, write your notes up and sign and date them.  It is important that your written note is as contemporaneous as possible with the meeting.  If feasible, do get others who attended the meeting to agree your written notes by signing them.
  5. Do take advantage of the services of the Ombudsperson, if available.  They can give you informal advice and might be able to intercede on your behalf
  6. Do speak and discuss matters with your Staff Council/Association/Union representatives.  Listen to what they have to say, as they generally have a wealth of experience.
  7. Do speak out and loudly if you are subject to any form of retaliation for asserting your rights against your employer.
  8. Do instruct a lawyer who understands international administrative law at the earliest opportunity.

The Do Not’s

  1. Do not place too much trust  in HR, for they are a tool of management.
  2. Do not meet with HR representatives on your own, unless this is unavoidable.  It is always good to have a witness of your own (e.g., a Staff Council/Association/Union representative).  If you do meet with them on your own, then make a full note of the meeting and sign and date those notes (follow the procedure in the ‘do list’ at 4 above).
  3. Do not in general sign anything on the spot.  Only sign documents after you have had the benefit of independent advice, such as that of a lawyer or Staff Council representative.  Never sign a separation agreement until it has been thoroughly reviewed by a lawyer instructed by you. Do not think that you are anything other than the victim of your employers conduct.
  4. Do not be afraid to assert your rights, for your organisation will have some form of enforceable anti-retaliation procedures.
  5. Do not let your performance at work be unduly affected by your complaint, as you do not want your employer to be able to claim that you are a sub-standard performer.

If you could benefit from clear and practical advice, specifically designed for International Civil Servants, please click here to contact members of Bretton Woods Law.