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With heavy workloads, busy schedules and precarious contracts these days, staff seem to have less time for and interest in staff representation. This is unfortunate because staff associations and unions carry out very important work. They represent the interests of staff to management and influence decisions on conditions of service. They also provide assistance to staff having grievances and monitor the work of staff-management committees, such as selection committees, appointment and promotion boards, and disciplinary committees to ensure that the proper procedures are followed.

The system that governs the conditions of service for staff working in the UN organizations is complex. It is governed by regulations and rules established by the governing body of each organization. National and international labor laws do not apply to UN workers, so staff  need to be vigilant to protect their rights.

Some of the conditions of service in UN organizations are decided within each organization. Others – such as salaries and allowances – are decided by the UN General Assembly. For these larger issues, staff associations and unions have joined together to form federations. The Federation of International Civil Servants’ Associations (FICSA) is one such association. FICSA has been defending the rights of international civil servants since 1952 and has two offices, Geneva and New York.