Text of a Letter from Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella, US Representative to the United Nations for Management and Reform, on UN Staff Salary Increases

Ambassador Joseph M Torsella
U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform 
New York, NY
August 29, 2011




Kingston Rhodes, Chairman
International Civil Service Commission
Two United Nations Plaza, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10017

August 29, 2011

Mr. Chairman:

I am writing you regarding the increase to the post adjustment index for New York that went into effect on 1 August 2011. As a result of this increase, the net compensation to UN staff in the professional and higher categories serving in New York has also increased, effectively raising the salaries of approximately 4,800 international staff by nearly 3%. My government is deeply concerned by the decision of the Secretariat of the International Civil Service Commission to increase the post adjustment index in New York and strongly objects to this increase.

Such a raise is inappropriate at this time of global fiscal austerity, when Member State governments everywhere are implementing drastic austerity measures such as layoffs, service reductions, revenue increases, and reductions in pay and benefits for civil servants. While we have the highest regard for the many dedicated professionals in the UN system, in these difficult times we must—at a minimum—forgo salary increases. Failure to do so could well lead to more draconian approaches to budget-balancing in the future.

As you know, the United States federal civil service is currently subject to a pay freeze; while this freeze is reflected in the UN’s base salary scale, the United States believes that to a meaningful, common-sense definition of “salary freeze” means that it should apply to net remuneration as a whole. Further, the United States federal civil service is subject to “locality pay” analogous to the UN’s “post adjustment” for international professional staff. In a letter to Congress dated 30 November 2010, President Obama, exercising his authority under Section 5304a of Title 5 of the United States Code, indicated that “the current locality pay percentages…shall not increase from their 2010 levels”.

Under the Noblemaire principle, the salaries and conditions of service international professional staff are determined by reference to those applicable for the comparator. Given both the pay freeze and the freeze in the locality pay percentages applicable to the United States federal civil service—the comparator for international professional staff—as a result of the global financial crisis, the United States government believes that no increases in either the base salary scale or post adjustment are warranted or appropriate at this time, and respectfully requests that the Commission take appropriate steps to restore the post adjustment index for New York.

Please accept the assurances of my highest consideration.

Regards,

Ambassador Joseph M. Torsella

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