An independent World Bank tribunal has ruled that a provision in bank President Barber B. Conable's giant reorganization plan last summer was illegal, granting some relief to employes who have challenged the controversial changes.
In a complicated set of rulings released last week, the bank's Administrative Tribunal cleared the way for more than 250 of the bank's staff members who lost their jobs during the reorganization to appeal their dismissals.
At the same time, the tribunal backed the bank's management in much of its dispute with the World Bank Staff Association and 14 individual staff members who had appealed to it to overturn Conable's reorganization plan.
The seven-member panel -- which decides disputes between the international bank and its staff -- dismissed on technical grounds a series of administrative appeals filed by the staff members alleging that the reorganization was unfair and biased.
The bank, an international organization whose prime function is to loan money to developing countries, has been in turmoil since last spring, when Conable announced a major reorganization plan aimed at making it more efficient.
As part of the reorganization, the bank has been rearranging its bureaucracy and reassigning its personnel, while in the process reducing its 6,500-person payroll by more than 500 people.
Although the bank has set aside more than $100 million to pay for severance packages, the process has been marked by charges of bungling and arbitrariness.
The tribunal's decision last week left both sides claiming victory. Ibrahim F.I. Shihata, the bank's general counsel, said last Friday that management had won basically "all that we had asked for -- the dismissal of all applications."
However, the staff association, which represents the employes, pointed to the tribunal's ruling that invalidated a form signed by more than 250 former employes releasing the bank from any claims against it.
The bank had offered some employes generous packages earlier this year, but it said the employes had to first sign the release form. Lawyers for the employes claimed the provision violated the rights of staff members, and the tribunal agreed.
"Any possibility ... of staffing decisions being made on the basis of personal favoritism or of other improper criteria is ordinarily one that can be reviewed," the tribunal wrote.
It said the bank cannot require staff members to give up their right to have decisions reviewed -- which the tribunal termed "an essential condition to employment."
The staff members can now appeal their dismissals, first through internal administrative proceedings, and then to the tribuna