Published August 23, 2011
EXCLUSIVE: Five months after United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the world body faced an “emergency situation,” and ordered his top lieutenants to cut their budgets by 3 percent overall, New York City-based staffers have just gotten a 2.2 percent boost to their paychecks.
Among other things, the new income hike means that the highest ranked officials at the U.N. headquarters -- including members of the audience Ban harangued last March -- will get a take-home, tax-free pay package of about $240,000.
The same officials last year would have earned about $235,240. That is about one-fifth higher than the gross pay of the highest level officials of the U.S. government, including federal Cabinet members, who earn a maximum of $199,700 -- before deductions and taxes.
But the U.S. officials still pay taxes, which reduces their pay, on federal taxes alone, by about another 21 percent.
The difference is even bigger for the next highest tier of U.N. officials, who take home about $220,000 a year, tax-free, after the new COLA hike, known in U.N.-speak as a “post adjustment.” That’s up from about $215,760 last year.
Compared to the $179,700 earned by U.S. officials at the equivalent federal pay grade, the difference is about 22 percent -- before the U.S. officials start paying taxes, which they must do, like all U.S. citizens.
In fact, the top brass of the U.S. government are likely to fall even further behind U.N. pay scales in the future. Their salaries, along with the rest of the federal civil service, were frozen by the Obama administration for two years, starting last December, as part of a drive to curb federal spending.
According to the U.N., the new cost-of-living hike affects 3,052 out of 6,234 staffers working at its New York headquarters, or about 48 percent of the total.
The U.N.’s answer appears to apply to staffers rated as professional level or higher in the U.N.’s job description system. According to U.N. records obtained by Fox News last spring, the full headquarters staffing of the U.N. in 2009, the last year for which records had been compiled, was more like 11,340.
A spokesman for Ban’s office justified the COLA hike by declaring that it was the first “post adjustment” U.N. officials had gotten since 2008. While that may be true, U.N. pay scales show that during years while the “post adjustment” was not rising, U.N. officials got hikes in their base pay instead.
According to U.N. documents, gross salaries for top officials rose by roughly 7 percent during that period, before getting a “post adjustment” multiplier.
How does the U.N. intend to cut 3 percent from its budget while still giving half of its highest-paid workers a 2.2 percent pay increase?
According to a spokesman for Secretary General Ban, he is using “various measures,” including staff reductions, cutbacks in travel, and “non-post reductions,” meaning measures beyond cutting staff, to achieve the target.
His proposed budget will be considered by the U.N. General Assembly in September. But Ban is also well known for relying on devices to make his budgets appear much leaner than they eventually turn out to be.
One of the most frequently used ploys is to compare his low-ball estimates of current and future spending -- the U.N. budgets for two years at once -- with the highest level of spending reached in the previous budget cycle, rather than with his initial estimate for the earlier period. His preliminary budgets have then been ratcheted up during the year to levels well beyond those original, massaged comparisons.
Using the more accurate apples-to-apples comparison, Ban had already planned in his preliminary budget for 2012-2013 for spending that is about 13 percent higher than his initial projection for 2010-2011.