Before we came here, we just naturally assumed that due to the nature of the work, the UN/IAEA would be really good at certain things. Since they relocate people from all over the world to the various UN sites (New York, Geneva, Vienna, and more), we figured they’d be particularly practiced at getting people oriented, situated and settled in.
As we discovered, this was not the case.
We’ve been consistently surprised with not only our own difficult relocation experience, but the fact that our experience seems pretty standard, not unusual at all.
Likewise, since the UN/IAEA employees are on a variety of different contracts, varying from very short term (as little as a month) to many years, we assumed they’d be fantastic at arranging and taking care of getting the various contracts ironed out, followed through on, and, most importantly, SIGNED.
Alas, also not the case. And, again, it’s not just us.
When we first came here, Dan was on a 2 year contract with a provisional period of 1 year. Meaning, basically, that though the contract was for 2 years, they could let him go (and send us home) any time in the first 12 months. Luckily, it didn’t come to that, because even in the early days here, when I was not entirely sold on being here, I did NOT want to get settled in just to turn around and leave. After those first two years, he got another 2 year contract, which was set to end in mid-April of this year.
They wanted us to stay. We were prepared to stay. Everyone was in agreement on the fact that we were going to stay. Without a contract extension, our ability to stay in the country (in any Schengen agreement country, actually) would have expired on Dan’s last day of work. We literally would have had to have been on a plane before we went to bed that night.
So, you’d imagine that MONTHS before the end of his contract, all “t”s would be crossed, all “i”s would be dotted, and we’d be all squared away.
But again, no.
My personal comfort range was 3 months. All through last fall, I repeatedly asked Dan to make sure that the contract stuff was getting figured out, because, as I reminded him, I needed at least 2-3 months to manage getting the household relocated if, by some fluke of paperwork or change of heart, we had to leave. He agreed that January was a reasonable deadline for having the contract figured out, and assured me that would happen.
But again, no.
Mid-January (and the 3 month deadline) came and went. Early February came and went. Valentine’s Day and the IAEA Ball in mid-February. Still, nothing. Lots of assurances and personal guarantees that all would be well and that we wouldn’t be deported in mid-April, but no actual papers, and thus, very little peace of mind for me.
We finally had a contract for Dan to sign on February 18, just 2 months before we all turned into pumpkins and would have had to leave the party.
But even though the contract was READY didn’t mean it was done.
This contract was a new kind for Dan (I’ll spare everyone the details, but it switched him from a special kind of employee to a full staff position), so we (naturally) had questions. There were changes to the retirement plan, questions about the other benefits, a lack of certainty over exactly how long it would be for, and there was a surprising pay cut attached to it.
Again, you’d think that with thousands of employees around the world, the UN/IAEA would be skilled at handling these fairly simple (and utterly predictable) questions. But again, you’d be wrong.
It took us a further 6 weeks to get those questions answered. In the end, the contract was finally signed on March 30, just 2 days before it went into effect. (Did I mention that this contract was effective April 1, not April 25 as we expected? No? Neither did they.)
And so, though it happened nail-bitingly close to the deadline, we finally did get the contract signed, and so, here we (still) are.