“The United Nations is not an island unto itself,” said Mr. Davidson, a Canadian in charge of administration and management. “The staff is influenced by what is going on in the labor movements in Britain, the United States and elsewhere.”
The dissatisfaction is focused mainly on arrangements, made in the United NaLions’ early days, that require the administration to consult with staff representatives but do not oblige it to negotiate across a bargaining table, Mr. Davidson said, adding that the employees do not feel their views are being heard. But he emphasized that it would be unrealistic to assume that an organization of 151 countries with widely differing social and economic systems would be prepared to accept the kind of union privileges, including collective bargaining, that are common in the United States.
Mr. Davidson, conceding that labormanagement relations at the United Nations needed updating, said he wanted to meet with staff representatives to work out more precise and orderly practices because “otherwise, we're heading for a precipice.”
The staff, which has retained Theodore W. Kheel, the lawyer and labor mediator, described its relations with the administration as having reached an impasse. Mr. Kheel, who says he has accepted a $5,000 fee, called the United Nations’ existing system “archaic, encrusted with formalities and fit for the time of Henry VIII.”
He said he advocated a new grievance and arbitration procedure so that staff members would have some means of airing their complaints.
Both sides agreed that the problem was made more complicated when the governments of member nations, incensed over what they regard as excessive spending and loose management, recently moved to intervene more aggressively in personnel matters formerly left to Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, Mr. Davidson and others.
“We had to act to fill a vacuum,” said George F. Saddler, an American representative. “The administration simply was not doing away with obsolete programs or imposing the economies we needed.”
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The United States pays 25 percent of
United Nations costs, which are now $1 billion a year, and has been particularly critical of the salaries of high officials.
The United Nations has 350 officials who earn at least $53,500 and, with allowances, can collect as much as $65,000. The salaries of the higher‐ranking officials are supposed to be comparable to those of the best‐paid civil service. Civil‐service workers in the United States have the highest salaries of any member nation; the ceiling on their earnings is $17,500.
At the recent General Assembly, delegations spent weeks behind closed doors hammering out a resolution on personnel matters that dismayed many staff members because it put a ceiling on the number of low‐ranking clerical workers who could advance to professional positions.
Employees in the clerical or generalservice categories are also said to be uneasy about the current review of salary levels. When a similar review was made of the United Nations’ clerical employees in Geneva, the International Civil Service Commission reported that salaries were excessive and should be cut by 17 percent.>