Barely appointed to the HUG, Robert Mardini receives controversial compensation from the ICRC – rts.ch

Barely appointed to the HUG, Robert Mardini receives controversial compensation from the ICRC – rts.ch
Barely appointed to the HUG, Robert Mardini receives controversial compensation from the ICRC – rts.ch

RTSinfo: Do ​​you confirm that you received severance pay from the ICRC after 28 years of service within the Geneva institution?

Robert Mardini: A severance payment in accordance with the regulations in force and as provided for in my employment contract was paid to me.

How much is this compensation?

It corresponds to what was provided for in the regulations and contractual provisions when I took up the position.

Does this correspond to the maximum compensation provided by the ICRC (twelve months’ salary), as was the case for your predecessor Yves Daccord, knowing that you de facto meet the seniority criteria to receive the maximum compensation?

That’s right. The severance pay is determined by taking only the base salary (320,000 francs) and amounts to 295,000 francs in my case.

Historically, these severance payments allowed members of the ICRC leadership to devote themselves to their mandate until the last day and not think about what came next. However, you applied to the HUG well before the end of your mandate as head of the ICRC, at the end of March. In this context, is your severance pay still justified?

It seems important to me to clarify a few factual elements here. I devoted myself fully to my mandate as Director General of the ICRC until the last day, with the same intensity, pride, constancy, rigor, humility and motivation as during my first mission in the field.

I announced at the end of August that I was not planning a second term. Naturally, several companies, particularly recruitment companies, approached me, including the one which was mandated by the HUG Board of Directors to help them in the recruitment process of their next general director.

I believe deeply in the mission of HUG. Preserving the health of populations affected by conflicts has been a central theme of my action at the ICRC. It therefore seemed logical to try to join the HUG without abandoning my position as Director General at the ICRC.

The HUG Board of Directors selected me for the position of Director General on March 25, but throughout the process nothing was guaranteed before my appointment by the Council of State after the end of my mandate at the ICRC.

Did you propose to the ICRC to receive less compensation than you could, given the fact that you had already found a job, also very well paid, at the HUG?

Severance benefits for ICRC directors, who are also employees, are paid at the end of their mandate within the framework of salary conditions which must remain competitive for particularly exposed and very demanding functions. These contractual conditions are fair and comparable to other equivalent management positions.

I would also like to point out that during my mandate as Director General (March 2020-March 2024), on two occasions in 2021 and 2023, when management decided to make budget cuts due to a reduction in financial contributions of our donors, the members of the management and I decided, as a show of solidarity, to voluntarily make a financial contribution to the ICRC.

What do you say to those who might be offended by the fact that you receive such a severance pay, seen as a golden parachute, while the organization you are leaving, the ICRC, is mainly funded by public money and experiencing unprecedented financial difficulties?

I will invite them to consider the following elements: being director of the ICRC involves leading an organization of nearly 20,000 collaborators with an annual budget exceeding 2 billion francs which operates in the most complex and unstable environments of the planet.

This means operating, supporting and supervising teams working in dangerous and unpredictable environments, negotiating with belligerents (state representatives and armed groups), managing ethical dilemmas, operational and reputational issues, security risks or hostage crises. while generating political support (for the Geneva Conventions, humanitarian access) and financial support (governmental and private donors), etc.

In a world marked by multiple and constantly increasing crises, the ICRC’s mission is crucial, because it involves protecting the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflicts and other situations of violence, and providing them with assistance. . The general director and the members of management have important roles in this fundamental mission for humanity.

The remuneration of the directors and the general director of the ICRC is reasonable. They are between 15% to 25% lower than equivalent roles in international organizations and other institutions comparable to the ICRC according to regular benchmarking exercises carried out by the ICRC.

The ICRC Assembly Commission, which approved this regulation, considered that the system of severance pay for directors and the general director was consistent with that of the collective labor agreements for all ICRC employees. .

And the financial crisis of the institution?

Concerning the financial crisis (resulting, it must be remembered, from significant reductions in humanitarian funding outside Ukraine, and from inflation, in a turbulent geopolitical context where humanitarian needs continue to increase) which has hit the entire sector hard including the ICRC, the ICRC management which I chaired until the end of March 2024 worked simultaneously and tirelessly with the headquarters and field teams on programmatic, structural and optimization reduction measures as well as on the intensification of fundraising efforts.

The closing of the 2023 budgetary year, in balance, confirms that the ICRC’s finances are healthy with a return to a favorable situation comparable to the end of 2021. The management of the ICRC has been recognized as exemplary by its donors who refer to the transparent and professional management of the financial crisis by the ICRC as an example to follow. While recognizing the difficulty of stopping crucial humanitarian activities for affected populations and parting ways with competent and motivated colleagues, these painful reductions and departures were unfortunately inevitable to safeguard the organization.

The ICRC has always chosen to demand professional and rigorous management from its employees and executives, the remuneration is in line with the requirements, the significant pressure from all directions and of course the humanitarian nature of the mission of the ICRC. ‘institution.

Don’t you think that receiving such compensation before taking the reins of HUG could result in potential image damage for you, the ICRC and the cantonal hospital, whereas the remuneration of UBS executives or Are health insurers currently controversial?

In a complex economic context, the question of executive remuneration is indeed a sensitive issue. However, one should not compare what is not comparable.

The ICRC has put an end to this practice of providing severance pay for new arrivals since the beginning of 2024. Your successor Pierre Krähenbühl, for example, is no longer under this regime. Is this not the admission of a practice which is no longer justified today?

Compensation policies are not an exact science and certainly not static. They evolve according to the realities of the labor market, the economic situation and political and social sensitivities. Personally, I have recused myself from all deliberations relating to the remuneration of the position of Director General of the ICRC to avoid any conflict of interest or perception of a conflict of interest.

The Geneva Council of State has decided to pay you 390,000 francs as director of HUG. This is less than your predecessor Bertrand Levrat who earned 450,000 francs. This is also significantly less than other directors of Swiss university hospitals. How do you see this situation?

Compensation has never been my primary motivation for a position. I accepted lower remuneration than that received by my predecessor at the ICRC in 2020; I now accept lower remuneration than my predecessor at HUG.

These are personal choices. I accepted the mission entrusted by the board of directors of the HUG and by the Council of State, because I have always carried with conviction, in action and in advocacy, the imperative of ensuring the continuum and the quality of health care.

I have worked against discrimination in access to care as well as against violence targeting health structures and services. The HUG is a magnificent public institution, serving a community. Fundamentally, this is what motivated me to choose to join the HUG.

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