The Former Officials’ Section has a 10-person executive Bureau (one post is currently vacant) which, except during the summer months, generally meets every two weeks. Its office (# 5-67) is next to those of the Staff Union on the fifth floor. Although the Section keeps in touch with its members by email, post and its twice yearly bulletin Message, as well as via its website (http://www.anciens-bit-ilo.org), there is still considerable room for improvement if it is to maintain close contact with retirees in the various regions.
Thanks to the Section’s physical proximity to the Staff Union, its Secretariat, its Executive Secretary and the other members of the Bureau are able to maintain permanent contact and engage in regular cooperation with the Union. These exchanges concern mainly matters of mutual interest, such as the SHIF and the Pension Fund. The Section supported the Staff Union’s crusade against salary cuts in Geneva and welcomed the broad mobilization of the staff during the spring of 2018.
The functioning and maintenance of the Staff Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) is a constant subject of concern and one which crops up at each of the Section’s fortnightly meetings. And there seems to be every reason to be worried, what with the risk that the processing of claims could be farmed out to an outside agency and that the social protection of retired officials could be transferred to national schemes – which in many countries do not even exist. Eager though we are to see an improvement in the Fund’s governance and management and in the social protection of retired officials in the various regions, we were also pleased to see the improvement in certain benefits on 1 July 2018 in terms of prevention and of the recognition of certain alternative medicines.
The Pension Fund, too, is going through a turbulent patch, not so much for reasons of finance or efficiency but rather because of a number of internal problems that are hardly conducive to a serene work environment. The Fund has introduced a new integrated computer system, and as a result some newly retired officials have had to wait months for their first payment; fortunately, current payments to retired officials have not been affected.
The Section has continued to work on improving its communications with retirees. Its website (http://www.anciens-bit-ilo.org) is regularly updated, not just with information that is of direct concern to retirees but also with the latest news from the ILO, such as the Staff Union’s recent crusade and strike action mentioned above. At the same time, we are busy preparing the next issue of Message, which is eagerly awaited by a large number of retirees but which involves a lot of time-consuming work. We are sincerely grateful to all those who devote their spare time to the magazine and are always on the lookout for new volunteers to help with translation and proofreading and to write articles or provide documentation.
The Former Officials’ Section always takes part in the annual pre-retirement seminar, where we can spend a few minutes with each participant so as to establish a personal contact with future retirees and encourage them to join the Section.
We are also involved with similar associations of other international organizations in Geneva, and a seminar under the heading “Comment bien vieillir – Stay younger for longer” was held on 14 May 2018 in the ILO’s Governing Body Room in cooperation with the former officials’ associations of WHO, the United Nations (AAFI-AFICS) and the ITU. The working documents for the seminar are available on our website (http://www.anciens-bit-ilo.org). Following a presentation dealing with the normal and pathological impact of ageing on mental health, interventions were heard from associations belonging to the “Plateforme des Ainés de Genève”: Pro Senectute, the Geneva Red Cross, the Geneva home-care assistance institution (IMAD) and Cité Seniors (on the Swiss side of the border) and the gerontological information and coordination centre (CLIC) in the Pays de Gex (on the French side).
The Seminar was attended by 200 participants and was the product of several months’ sustained collaboration among associations of retired officials of international organizations in Geneva. The previous seminar of its kind, on loneliness and isolation, was held in October 2014, and we believe that events such as these show how useful such associations and groups of retirees can be.
As we prepare to mark the hundredth anniversary of the ILO in 2019, which is sure to be a memorable occasion, hundreds of tributes and other events have been planned to be held in Geneva and throughout the world. No doubt they will be closely followed in the media.
The Section is cooperating with the ILO as it prepares for the centenary celebrations, and the Director-General Guy Ryder has personally expressed the hope that former officials, who were the making of the Organization, will follow the event very closely. On two occasions in the first half of this year the Section met the ILO officials who are responsible for arrangements and it has been very pleased to be of help. Though the date has not yet been fixed, a special event will be held for retired officials in the presence of the Director-General. The Section has made a number of suggestions for the occasion that have been duly adapted for inclusion in the general programme of events.
In a circular sent out on 30 January 2018 the Section invited retired officials to send in contributions reliving some of the highlights of the ILO’s history and the response has been encouraging, with over 40 contributions already. Some of the stories appeared in the June 2018 issue of Message, and others will follow. All these contributions will appear on our website (http://www.anciens-bit-ilo.org), as well as being passed on to DCOMM for use in their communications as they see fit.
The Former Officials’ Section also supports the ILO’s Arts and Decoration Circle, a member of the Sports and Leisure Association, whose some 30 plus members organized a fourth exhibition in the Colonnade at ILO headquarters from 1 to 12 October 2018.
The annual receptions for retirees that take place in May and December in Geneva at the invitation of the Director-General are an excellent occasion for former ILO officials to meet up on familiar ground, and the Director-General’s attendance is always greatly appreciated.