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At UN, Six Week Layoff Imposed on Food Workers, Waterless Bar & CMP's Spooky Routes, Part Two

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 29 -- While the UN preaches about increasing employment and the dignity of labor, in its headquarters building twenty more workers, among the lowest income on the campus, are about to be summarily laid off.

  Cooks and waiters in what remains of the Delegates' Dining Room have this week been told that they will no be needed, at least between August 6 and September 20, with the UN General Debate begins.

In a series of interviews with those impacted, it was pointed out to Inner City Press that the UN's Delegates' Dining Room never went on furlough before, nor were people laid off “until Ban Ki-moon.” Others blamed Ban's chief of Management, Angela Kane.

Inner City Press pointed out that the likely excuse will be the Capital Master Plan reconstruction. Already the Delegates' Dining Room was moved from the fourth floor of the Secretariat Building down to a curtained off portion of the first floor cafeteria. Twenty people were jettisoned during that move, a waiter told Inner City Press. “Now, twenty more.”

While those impacted work for the UN's contractor Aramark, they point out that Aramark signed a new deal with the UN knowing full well about the Capital Master Plan. More than one of them asked, “Is that contract being changed now?” Watch this space.

  To be constructive, non-UN customers of the Delegates' Dining Room can no longer easily access it, as they are not allowed in through the 42nd Street gate. There is good food, but not good enough to justify an obstacle course...

UN's Ban and rosy CMP: spooky routes and layoffs not shown

At the other end of the UN campus, the supposed replacement of the Delegates' Lounge is a mere metal booth with locked up liquor bottles and no running water. There's been walk of it moving out from the drab area by computer terminals to the front of the second floor, windowless but at least more centrally located. But it has yet to happen.

  “The UN is dying,” more than one person has said. Another joked, it's a wonder that this didn't make it into Inga Britt Ahlenius' end of assignment report.

  Finally, for now, the route from the UN's No Whistleblower press zone to the Security Council has gotten even more surreal, with thick cables running from the ceiling of the garage reporters and others pass through. Even this route is now under fire, with CMP chief Adlerstein planning construction right at the entrance to the basement area the Security Council is in.

  Another door is being prepared. But Adlerstein hasn't spoken to the press or taken questions in a long time -- perhaps understandably. Watch this site.

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At UN, Spooky Routes Through Garages & Dark Halls, Evictions and Monitors Missing

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 1 -- The UN's emptied building was spooky and some day dangerous during Memorial Day's emergency Security Council meetings about the assault on the flotilla to Gaza. In the UN's lobby, a crude plywood fence has been erected. It was supposed to block pedestrian traffic from May 29 onward. But due to bad planning various UN functions have not moved out of the building.

  By June 1 the door through the plywood fence was still open. Despite signs saying that hardhats and protective gear against asbestos were required, UN staff whose offices had not been moved walked through the dark corridor. "This is crazy," one of them told Inner City Press. "Is a hardhat supposed to keep me from breathing asbestos?"

  Meanwhile journalists were told to access the Security Council from their Whistleblower Free Zone over the library by walking through the garage. One television producer said, this can't be safe, and planned a video expose. The UN is proposing a new set of guidelines to further restrict access to the media, the producer complained: "this is Ban Ki-moon's UN."

The new "normal" way from the Press pen to the Security Council involves going outside near the Spokesperson's Office, by the river and up to the General Assembly, through the basement to to the Security Council. But on June 1 the electronic turnstiles set to go into use that day weren't assembled and weren't ready. Of the two old elevators to the Press (and Management) floors above the library, one is broken.

The UN Staff Union, having been threatened with eviction by Capital Master Plan chief Michael Adlerstein, had their phones cut off on May 28. When they arrived for work on June 2, the offices in the Secretariat Building were empty, they say. But their equipment and furniture had not shown up in the Alcoa Building either, having been stored on a truck all weekend. CMP means Can't Manage Planning, they say. But now whole floors of the empties Secretariat Building are being used for storage, or for contractor Skanska or its consultants.

At UN, during cleaner moving times: spooky halls not shown

Inner City Press asked the UN Spokesperson's Office a few questions and got these answers:

Inner City Press: What happened with the video monitors which were installed outside the conference rooms in the Conference Building which used to show the meeting schedules.? Will they be reused, or were they sold, or thrown away?? Where are they now, and who is responsible for their custody?

UN answer: The video monitors were removed by the Broadcast and Conference Support Section (BCSS), on behalf of the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM), in coordination with the Capital Master Plan. The monitors are in the Facilities Management Service, BCSS Store and will be reused wherever practical.

Inner City Press: Speaking of video monitors, there is a monitor in front of the cafeteria which until last week only showed pages from a French news/TV site.? An image of Sarkozy visiting Afghanistan in February was frozen on that monitor for?some time.? Was that monitor donated by France on condition that it only show images of Sarkozy?? Why is it dark now?? Who is responsible for programming that monitor's content?

UN Answer: The monitor was provided by the TV5 Monde, in coordination and with full support of the Department of Public Information. The monitor is to display news and informational programming broadcast by TV5 Monde and delivered to the UN over the internet. Recently we have had some technical issues which we are working to resolve and hope there will be a full resumption of service in the near future.

We'll see. Watch this site.

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At UN, Adlerstein as "Slumlord," Forced Relocation in the End, Ceiling Collapse Confirmed, Asbestos Denied but not Tested

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 28, updated -- Alongside the sealing off of the UN Conference Building, a new ceiling collapse in the General Assembly basement and relentlessly upbeat storytelling by the UN about happy staffers and even reporters in their new swing space, as in many refugee situations it all comes down to force.

The chief of the UN Capital Master Plan Michael Adlerstein has written:

"In the event that you do not pack your materials as requested, we will arrange for your material to be packed and relocated to the Alcoa space during the weekend of 29-31 May 2010. In either event, telephone and computer connections will be relocated ... this weekend, and the locks will be changed at your old office in the Secretariat on Friday night. On Tuesday morning June 1, you will not be allowed to enter your former offices."

Unlike anywhere else in New York or most real estate situation, there is no possibility of appeal or any outside review. "It's like a threat from a slumlord," one reader of the letter told Inner City Press.

Adlerstein's letter reflects that Information Technology staff are, in fact, remaining in the Secretariat high rise. It is unclear when they will be moved to the basement of the North Lawn building.

Downstairs in the basement, workers at UN Television report they will be moved upstairs "to where Verbatim used to be" -- that is, the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management staff who were moved to the bedbug ridden Albano Building swing space will not be coming back.

Moving, like it or not: garbage cart, Adlerstein as locksmith not shown

  A series of CMP related questions have been sent this morning to the spokespeople for the Secretary General and for the CMP, including about yet another ceiling collapse in the General Assembly lobby, the reported charging of admission to see a film inside the UN, frozen and missing video monitors and the future of the US Post Office inside the UN. Watch this site.

Update of 1 p.m. -- from the UN, on one of eight questions:

Subject: response to your first question from CMP
From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply
Date: Fri, May 28, 2010 at 12:09 PM
To: Inner City Press

1. There is another ceiling collapse in front of the gift shop, in the public area of the UN.? Has the UN done testing to confirm that there is not asbestos being released in the vicinity of visitors, including children?? When were the tests done, and will the UN make them available?

Response: Approximately 10 sf of plaster have fallen down near the Gift Shop. The plaster in that area had to be replaced a few times before due to a recurring leakage problem. This plaster does not contain asbestos.

To be continued.

* * *

In UN, Adlerstein Demands Departure of Staff Union, CMP Won't Disclose Luggage Building Lease Length

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, May 26 -- As the UN surrounds its iconic skyscraper with a blue plywood construction fence, inside a battle is brewing. The UN Staff Union, with its longtime offices on the fifth floor, has yet to be moved out. Capital Master Plan chieftain Michael Adlerstein ordered them to leave on May 21 and again on May 24, but they did not. He rejected their reasons, and has commanded that they will move, like it or not.

A visit to the fifth floor on May 26 found moving boxes sitting empty. Construction workers with hardhats passed through the hall, from working out on the roof. Staff Union officials described their back and forth with Adlerstein's envoy Ken Champion, who they say was reasonable.

  But finally, when they asked how their staffer would be put in harm's way, Champion returned to say that Adlerstein said no, it didn't matter, they would move. He argued that they are costing the UN money, to continue services to the floor.

  The elevators to the 5th floor still works, but will not stop at 3, 4, 6, 8-12, 14 and 15. The information technology workers further upstairs will remain for the foreseeable future, until their functions can be "migrated" to the basement of the new North Lawn building. Great planning.

As UN empties, Union and IT workers remaining not shown

  Meanwhile, in the wake of Inner City Press' report that the Capital Master Plan's lease on the Albano "swing space" building on 46th Street runs for a full ten years, the CMP has declined to disclose the length of the UN's lease of the 42nd Street "Innovation Luggage" building.

  CMP's genial spokesman says this is because it was the UN "Facilities Management Service" that rented the Luggage Building, and not the CMP. Why?

  Inner City Press is told by a well placed UN official that the CMP was only authorized to lease a certain number of square feet of swing space. Due to bad planning, much more is necessary. And so the additional lease is run through FMS. But how? Where does this money suddenly appear (and disappear) from? Watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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