Presented at the General Assembly of the ILO Staff Union on 14th October 2020 by François Kientzler, Executive Secretary of the Former Officials’ Section.
This report from the Former Officials’ Section, in view of the ongoing pandemic, is special. Members of the Bureau of the Staff Union’s Former Officials Section had not had access to their office for 6 months, from mid-March 2020 until 17 September. On that day, François Kientzler, Executive Secretary of the Section, after having followed all the protocol in force, was granted access to the ILO. Members of the Bureau met for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic on Wednesday, 23 September, outside the ILO.
We would like first of all to pay tribute to our late colleague, Nari (Venkataraman Narasimhan), who passed away in December 2019, and who has been a faithful treasurer of the Former Official’s Section since his retirement after having served as Treasurer of the ILO Staff Union for many, many years. He was known to all the Former Officials of the ILO and he assumed his responsibilities as Treasurer until his strength and life passed him by. He is greatly missed.
During all these months spent without access to the ILO we were able to maintain our contacts with our members and the Staff Union, in particular with Catherine Comte-Tiberghien, Chairperson, and her secretariat. The Former Officials’ Section, with its own office and access to the ILO’s computer system, was able to continue to consult the ILO intranet and its e-mail inbox from outside, just like the active staff members who were teleworking. We have also been able to respond to all the e-mails that were sent to us and to hear the concerns and sometimes the thanks that have been expressed by many retirees. We were able to access all the information disseminated by the ILO via the intranet, communicate by e-mail with our members and send them a letter in August. However, we have only been able to access our files since mid-September, which has not allowed us to make the required updates and, above all, to make progress in the publication of a new issue of the Message, which we are first publishing on our website.
Representatives of the Bureau of the Section attended the Staff Union’s General Meeting in February, just like every year. Given the pandemic, the event which had been planned for the spring to celebrate the Staff Union’s centenary, and which was to be a joint event for both active and retired officials, has not yet been able to take place. However, a link has been established on our website to the Staff Union’s blog, which contains interviews with the former Chairpersons of the Staff Union who were to take part in the celebration. The Section reaffirms its willingness to be more available to retirees in the regions to help them structure themselves and is ready to make space available to them on the Section’s website. It is counting on the regional Staff Representatives to facilitate this collaboration. The Section continued to receive information, in particular on the Pension Fund via AAFI-AFICS Geneva and has participated in two videoconferences of its Council.
Our website, hosted outside the ILO, was regularly updated thanks to Azeddine Sefrioui, our webmaster, with information we obtained from the ILO intranet and the Staff Union. Statistics on the number of visitors to the site highlighted its importance, reaching almost 500 in August. We have posted several articles that should appear in issue No. 68 of the Message. In this regard, Ivan Elsmark, Message‘s editor for over 20 years, has ceased his regular involvement and we are looking for another editor. We are considering a new format for this publication. We have also posted the last two issues of the Message (Nos. 65 and 66-67) which have not yet been archived by the ILO Library.
In fact, the year 2020 was to be a turning point in the organization and functioning of the Bureau of the Section. Our long-serving and loyal secretary, Marianne, retired at the end of December 2019, and we did not wish to replace her both for reasons of economy and because most members of the Bureau of the Section are computer literate. We have three PCs at our disposal. Two new members had just joined the Bureau and were confirmed in their nomination in the elections at the end of 2019, Carmen Sottas and Guy Bezou. John Myers was co-opted at the beginning of 2020 as two of the Bureau positions were vacant. We congratulate all three of them but regret that they have not been able to express their full talent and commitment to the members of the Section to date. The meeting of the Section’s Board on 23 September took stock of operational constraints but also of current and recurrent topics, namely the sickness and health protection of retirees and pension issues.
In order to explore different ways of transmitting the claim reimbursement forms to retirees, in the spring of 2020, the SHIF extended the possibility of sending them out electronically. This should be of great benefit to retirees from countries outside Geneva who have and use internet access. A test period was offered to some retirees and now the system is being extended to all. However, the transmission by mail or direct deposit of claims to the ILO remains, and will continue to remain, possible. The Bureau has not yet had an opportunity to take stock of this new practice with the Executive Secretary of the SHIF, whom it wishes to invite to a future meeting.
We have continued to contact all the retiring staff members whose names we receive each month from the Administration; this year, the number of retiring staff members was low. We have registered several memberships in the Section. The ILO Administration also sends us notices of the deaths of former officials or their spouses of which it is aware; we compile a list of deceased ILO retirees, former officials or spouses who are entitled to benefits; and we have published it on our website. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, we have recorded a significantly lower number of deaths than in previous years during the same period. This may be due to the caution of seniors during this pandemic period.
Finally, while some retired members of the Section have died, others have joined, and still others have changed addresses. As we have only recently been able to access the ILO we have not been able to update our files as we would have liked. But the door to the ILO has been opened again, and this task awaits us. We hope, by remaining cautious and following the protection guidelines, to be able to resume a more normal and regular activity. The Bureau of the Section has met in Gex in an association’s premises; this can only be a temporary situation for us. We hope to be able to return to our ILO premises as soon as possible but, of course, with due respect for all the health protection and provisions, particularly for the elderly, that the ILO has put in place.