UN labour agency hit by staff action

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The International Labour Organisation, the UN's prime advocate of decent working conditions, faced an unusual call for global industrial action on Wednesday by its own disgruntled staff.

The staff union at the ILO's secretariat called a general meeting for Wednesday after members said talks with management broke down over the growing use of precarious short term contracts and alleged abuse of recruitment procedures.

"The ILO must practice what it preaches to the world," the union said in a statement calling for "global action."

"While we, the staff at the ILO research, write and travel the world over promoting a dialogue-driven response to the global financial crisis, here at home our own rights are being eroded," it added.

Union representatives at the Geneva headquarters said ILO offices around the world were already mobilising following a deterioration in the working climate with management.

"A number of actions will be taken, some have already voted to strike, others might take lesser action but it's clear that the discontent and this action will be worldwide in the ILO," Catherine Comte, vice chairperson of the union, told Swiss radio RSR.

The ILO, a tripartite UN agency which groups governments, employers and workers representatives, openly advocates social dialogue, minimum labour standards, and a "decent work agenda".

Its secretariat employs some 2,800 people.

In a statement, the ILO secretariat said it was the only organisation in the UN system where management and staff had concluded an agreement on the right to collective bargaining, and held regular meetings.

"Nevertheless there is one area in which the parties differ, the procedures concerning recruitment and selection," it acknowledged, pointing to the failure so far of attempts to renegotiate the two year agreement struck in 2000.

It said it was ready to continue negotiations for one more year.

© 2010 AFP

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