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Reuters AlertNet 8/17/07

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While ILO Talks Productivity, Strikers at UN Congo Mission Ask if Labor Rights Begin at Home

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, September 4 -- At the UN on Tuesday, the International Labor Organization unveiled a study about productivity. What, though, of the UN's own respect for labor rights? Last month the national staff of the UN Mission in the Congo, MONUC, went on strike. MONUC uses casual day workers, some of whom have done skilled work for the UN since 1999. In the second day of the strike, MONUC put out a statement saying it would procure replacement workers. At UN Headquarters, the seriousness of the strike and underlying working conditions were downplayed. Similar problems are festering in UN peacekeeping missions in Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire, among other places.

            Inner City Press on Tuesday asked the ILO briefers to comment on the UN's own labor practices, in light of the strike against MONUC. Video here, from Minute 16:05. "That is not my area," said Lawrence Jeff Johnson, the author of the productivity report. Spokesman Kevin Cassidy hearkened back nine years, to the ILO's declaration of fundamental principles and rights of work, including the rights of free association, and the right to organize. What then of efforts in Liberia to work around the union? Or MONUC's fast threat to bring in, in essence, scabs?  Messrs. Cassidy and Johnson did not have an answer for this.

Lawrence Jeff Johnson and Kevin Cassidy at Sept. 4 briefing

            On other matters, Inner City Press asked Mr. Johnson about the outsourcing now of service jobs like the reading of X-Rays; he replied that jobs have been moving for hundreds of years. But what about the race to the bottom, to countries without employment protections? His answer was that countries that race to the bottom are not sustainable. It all sounds good -- if slightly unrealistic. To be continued.

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Clck here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (which had to be finalized without Ban's DPA having respond.)  Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent 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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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540