Unlike in national systems, the employment relations between the United Nations Organizations and their staff members are governed by the international civil service law. Litigation resulting therefrom fall under the competence of specific bodies: internal bodies in all UN Organizations system, the UN Dispute Tribunal and the UN Appeal Tribunal for some United Nations Organizations, and the International Labor Organization Administrative Tribunal for most of the Intergovernmental Organizations.
Our Staff Union is aware that, the United Nations Organization has created the Office of Staff Legal Assistance (OSLA) which provides legal advice and representation to staff in relation to the Organization’s formal internal justice system. We also are aware that, in principle, any staff member has the right to have competent and independent counsel or lawyer of their choosing.
To guarantee this freedom of choice to UN Staff members, our staff Union has set up a legal permanence service to provide legal advice and representation to its members, upon their request, in their employment relations with their Organizations, particularly in matters relating to the discretionary powers of the Administration, such as the renewal of contracts, performance appraisal, promotion, disciplinary measures, dismissal, to name but a few.
By establishing this service, our Staff Union aims at raising staff awareness of their rights and obligations, at effectively assisting them in protecting these rights and in contributing, by the same token, to reducing litigations and establishing a fair and healthy environment in the workplace. However, this will only be possible if the Administration adopts the same perspective by applying effectively in practice, and without reserve, the staff rules and regulations as well as the general principles of the international civil service law as well as the case law.
Unlike the other branches of law, the international civil service law is not taught in law schools, except for one University in the whole wide world. As a result, international staff often face difficulties in getting appropriate advice and support. Unfortunately, it sometimes also happens that they are used by some non-specialized jurists or lawyers within or outside their organizations who learn about this specific subject matter, and particularly about the discretionary powers of the Administration, on the job.
Usually, staff members try to avoid litigation. However, there are sometimes appropriate motives for litigation which require to be addressed through the proceedings provided by the Organization in order to restore the justice. In general, the staff members turn to colleagues who may be either jurists or lawyers, seeking their advice or even support in the proceedings. However, given the specificity of the international civil service law, these Jurists or Lawyers often fail to adequately analyze the case and detect the critical considerations. As a result, the staff members are often misguided. A case could be won simply by correctly submitting the facts and carefully respecting the proceedings without any support from a jurist or lawyer.