Nzau Musau: UN staff furious at loss of Nairobi perks - The Star

UNITED Nations staff in Nairobi are protesting against a move by the International Civil Service Commission in New York that would reduce their hardships and security allowances.

The New York based ICSC handles all employment issues for the UN.

In December it recommended the reclassification of the Nairobi duty station from level C to level B with effect from January 1.

The reclassification means that Nairobi, which hosts UN-Habitat and Unep, has been effectively upgraded from average to good status in terms of living conditions and security.

The top grade is H for the head-quarter cities of New York, Geneva and Vienna.

Grade A covers cities like London and Paris while the bottom grade E covers cities like Baghdad and Kabul.

The worse the city, the higher the hardship allowances paid by the UN.

On Tuesday Achim Steiner, the director general of the UN Office in Nairobi, wrote to UN staff in Nairobi to tell them that he was challenging the ICSC decision in New York.

He said the reclassification has "far-reaching implications".

"It has become clear that the ICSC's decision does not reflect the assessment of managers of UN agencies, funds and programmes operating in Kenya and Nairobi," says Steiner's email.

One UN worker yesterday said, "The UN community are furious because they don't think Nairobi has improved and their allowances will go down."

Steiner told staff that after discovering about the proposed upgrading in December, he made frantic efforts to defer the decision until a Kenya security risk assessment, currently being undertaken, is finished.

He also sought the intervention of secretary general's Ban Ki-Moon's chief of staff to stave off the impeding reclassification.

The ICSC however proceeded with the decision and sent out a memo to Steiner on December 31 informing him of the decision which was to take effect the following day.

The commission oversees all issues to do with UN staff working conditions, remuneration, salaries, allowances and benefits.

On some matters like daily subsistence allowances, hardship entitlements and cost-of-living element, the commission takes decisions.

It however makes recommendations on human resource policy issues to the executive heads of various UN agencies as well as recommends to the general assembly on professional salary scales and level of dependency allowance.

Article 11 of the commission's rules of procedure says: "The commission shall establish the methods by which principles for determining conditions of service should be applied."

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