UN Intellectual Property Agency WIPO Fires Staff Union Head Following Exposure of Dubious Management Practices

Press Release from Flaherty Law Group in Geneva:

UN Intellectual Property Agency WIPO Fires Staff Union Head Following Exposure of Dubious Management Practices

On 19 September 2014, the World Intellectual Property Agency (WIPO) fired Mr Moncef Kateb, president of the WIPO Staff Association, the accredited trade union of the UN specialized agency’s staff, in retaliation for his defense of staff and continued opposition to alleged misconduct by the WIPO Director General and his administration.

This extraordinary action follows Mr Kateb’s suspension without pay on 5 September, and coincides with a call for investigation into WIPO Director General, Australian Francis Gurry, and his administration for allegations of misconduct and abuse of power. The charges ostensibly relate to Mr Kateb’s actions in his capacity as a staff representative, and allege a breach of confidentiality and a conflict of interest (http://bit.ly/wipochargesheet).

Mr Kateb has been subject to numerous threats and disciplinary measures from WIPO administration during his four-year term as president of the staff union due to his efforts to protect staff from intimidation and unethical treatment. In 2012 the administration blocked a request by the U.S. Congress Foreign Affairs Committee for his testimony on WIPO’s secret transfer of sophisticated IT and computer equipment to North Korea.  More recently, the WIPO Staff Association has supported requests for an investigation into alleged misconduct by Mr Gurry and his Administration, including theft of DNA from staff members represented by the Staff Association, and corruption of the procurement process.

The three staff federations of the United Nations system representing 120,000 international civil servants worldwide (the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations—CCISUA; the Federation of International Civil Servants’ Associations—FICSA: and the United Nations International Civil Servants Federation—UNISERV) have released a joint statement (http://bit.ly/wipofederationletter) protesting his treatment, arguing that they believe the charges against Mr Kateb are groundless, and calling for his immediate reinstatement and the replacement of Mr Gurry as Director General of WIPO.

Mr Kateb has been on WIPO staff since April 1998, and was elected president of the Staff Council, the WIPO Staff Association’s governing body, in April 2010.  Previously he served as Director General of Algeria’s national copyright office.

The WIPO Staff Association comprises 710 members, representing more than half of WIPO employees.

UN Watch