FAO staff outraged as Easter holidays axed

FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva and his wife meet Pope Francis. Photo credit: FAO

 ROME — FAO staff are up in arms over the Brazilian management’s decision to close the UN agency over Christmas week but to force staffers to work through Holy Easter and the hallowed Roman holiday of Ferragosto in the sweltering Eternal City summer.

  In a message to members the Executive Committee of the UGSS union for general service staffers said “we have become aware of the disheartening news of the 2018 Holiday calendar which was sent out yesterday by management without prior notice to the Staff Representative Bodies (SRBs).”

  Management disregarded the results of a survey carried out by the UGSS in which members overwhelmingly asked to retain the original holiday scheme.

 “The decision to group the holidays around Christmas was made unilaterally by Management, without prior consultation with the SRBs, in breach of the Recognition Agreement,” the union said.

 “The proposed holidays do not follow the criteria detailed in the Administrative Manual, which states that the ‘local custom, the practice of other agencies in the area, and the practical requirements of the office’ must be taken into account.”

 The UGSS added that “by concentrating all holidays except one at the end of the year, short-term GS staff are forced to observe a one-month break between mid-December and mid-January, effectively depriving them of paid leave (just one day throughout the rest of the year). The same applies to staff paid daily, effectively cutting their pay in December.”

 “Finally management has not yet provided any evidence that revised calendar offers any particular advantage in terms of savings to the organization.”

 The union urged management to return to the time-tested calendar but stopped short of threatening industrial action, however.

 The decision to close during Christmas week is "so that the Brazilians can all go back home and enjoy a summer holiday on the beach,” an observer commented. Consultants also are irked as they lose 25 percent of their monthly salary due to the December closure.

 Brazilian FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva relishes public appearances with Pope Francis when the pontiff comes to the FAO but the former leftist minister evidently has little respect for the sensibilities of Christian staffers who want to celebrate Easter, diplomatic sources say.