16 August 2012

South Sudan: UN Mission in South Sudan Meets With Dissatisfied National Staff

Photo: Sudan Tribune
Local UN staff striking (file photo): Workers say the strike is motivated by the high inflation in the country, and the fall of the pound following the austerity measures implemented to reduce the budget deficit.

Juba — The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on Thursday denied allegations attributed to national staff members which led to protests on 13 August; that in comparison to what international staff receive, their pay and privileges are unfair.

Representatives of the UN National Staff Federation (UNNSF) of South Sudan cited in a petition delivered to UNMISS leadership on 13 August, expressing grievances including the failure to decide whether national staff should receive their pay in US$.

After attending a meeting at which the staff were addressed by the head of mission, Hilde Johnson, on Thursday, an anonymous national employee told Sudan Tribune that their complaints over the form of their pay began in 2011. They went through the appropriate internal channels but failed to receive responses or were informed that "New York is still discussing it".

The meeting held in Juba, which was also attended by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN, was an opportunity for support to be expressed to the national staff.

"We are in the same boat," said Johnson, explaining that UNMISS sympathises with their legitimate concerns and values their work but that there are difficulties in realising their demands.

The mission spokesperson Kouider Zerrouk on Thursday also told Sudan Tribune that it was an amicable meeting in which "the frank discussions" were held.

"We have listened carefully and engaged in an open debate on all issues that staff have raised. We are committed to support our national staff during this difficult period that South Sudan is experiencing, and will continue to work closely to find a viable solution. We are doing everything possible to ensure that national staff receives support and training in many, many, areas of expertise so they will play a vital part in building a strong South Sudan", Johnson said in a statement on Thursday.

On the 13 August at least 200 national staff from the 20 UN agencies operating in South Sudan took to the streets of Juba calling for equal rights.

A national staff member cited the scarcity of foreign currency in South Sudan, in the wake of the halting of oil production in January in a row with Khartoum over the payment of transit fees, as a factor in the drive for payment in US$.

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