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As UN Food Workers Face Layoff, IDNYC Pop-Up Not For Them?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 30 -- When the UN hosted a new “pop-up” enrollment site for the New York City ID card, launching it with Mayor Bill de Blasio and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon getting an ID card, Inner City Press went because it wanted to ask if this site was for regular New Yorkers, or only for UN staff and diplomats, who have immunity.

  But no questions were taken. Inner City Press had in mind, for example, those who work in food service inside the UN, who have approached it saying they face lay offs due in part to NYC's refusal to close down a lane of the FDR Drive off-ramp, deemed a threat to the cafeteria and closing it.

  So later on June 30 Inner City Press put both questions to UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq, video here:

Inner City Press: Two maybe inter-related questions.  One, on this idNYC pop-up shop, is it exclusively limited to diplomats and UN staff, or are other New Yorkers who are in the building able to use it?

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  I believe the City of New York has a press release on this that we can share with you that's got the various details.

Inner City Press: And I wanted to ask you, also, the people that work for, I guess, Culinary in both the Delegates' Dining Room and the cafeteria…

Deputy Spokesman Haq:  Culinart?

Inner City Press:  Culinart.  Basically, they say many of them are going to be out of a job beginning 13 July.  They say the Delegates' Dining Room will be closing for at least the rest of the summer, and the large cafeteria will be moved to other locations, and they're not sure if there will be as many jobs.  Can you… what is the impact on actual… the people that work in the building of these two moves? 

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we… I don't speak for Culinart.  Ultimately, they're the ones who make the decision on who is deployed where.  We have a contract with them to provide services.  I do know that there have been other summers, such as last summer under the previous holder of the contract, where, during the slow period in August, there's a shutdown in some of the facilities.  We hope that whatever decisions Culinart takes it will be short-lived and they'll make appropriate decisions so that staff are treated responsibly.

Inner City Press:  They basically won't have health insurance for the summer.  I wonder, although they're your contractor, is there any practice you're holding them to in this regard?

Deputy Spokesman:  We have contracts that we negotiate with contractors.  And if they don't meet the terms of the contract, then that's a problem for them.  But, ultimately, you know, for things like labour conditions, you're going to have to talk to Culinart.
  Does the UN take the same approach to contractors as far away companies whose clothes are made in Dhaka, for example? And what of the FDR exit ramp in all this?

  Why a pop-up IDNYC site for diplomats, who not only rarely face issues with the police (Inner City Press covered one exception with St Vincent and the Grenadines) but have immunity such that accused war criminals like Sri Lanka's Shavendra Silva and Palitha Kohona, to whom the current president of the UN Correspondents Association rented an expensive Manhattan apartment, and not for more common people who really need the ID cards?

The new Free UN Coalition for Access, as well as Inner City Press, will have more on all this.

Back on March 13 Inner City Press exclusively reported on the impending but untransparent closing of the UN cafeteria - then asked the UN Spokesperson to confirm it.
  On March 16, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq returned with an answer, that due to safety concerns, yes, the UN cafeteria will close in late May or early June. The logistics of replacing it, and how workers would be impacted, were not addressed.

  Previously, Inner City Press reported on fears that the UN there is vulnerable to a terrorist bombing by a vehicle on the FDR Drive off-ramp. The US diverted $100 million in withheld tax payments of US staffers to reconfigure the basement conference rooms for this threat from the FDR Drive itself.

  But the City has declined to close down the off ramp, instead stationing a police car there apparently with the idea it would serve as a deterrent or marginal early warning system.

  That interim solution apparently not seen as enough, now there's impending closure - and job loss - in July, with some smaller alternative with fewer workers to remain. Watch this site.

  As the UN talks about workers' rights and collegiality, inside the Glass House things can be quite different. On July 31, 2014, Inner City Press reported how the head of the UN Department of General Assembly and Conference Management Tegegnework Gettu calling female critics "emotional," here.

 Now on March 9, multiple sources tell Inner City Press that Gettu told complaining staff "I am warning you," cutting them off while saying We are all equal, including me." Really? Leaked audio exclusively put online by Inner City Press here.

 What will Secretary General Ban Ki-moon do? Under his management, the UN Staff Union in New York has been broken. But is this rant appropriate? Previously, Gettu said, if we all fart together, it doesn't smell. Really?

 Back on July 31 Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced he is shifting Catherine Pollard from the Office of Human Resources Management over to become Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM), replacing Franz Baumann of Germany.

  As Inner City Press previously reported, Pollard had declared herself the poster child of Ban's “mobility” policy, to only hold the same post -- or was it duty station? -- for five years.

   No matter that, for example, Robert Serry has said on television he's been in his post six years. Pollard has made a lateral move, and Baumann's next move is not yet clear.

  What does DGACM do? As a sample, Inner City Press has already exclusively received a number of complaints about a meeting held by DGACM chief Tegegnework Gettu, also on July 31. According to sources, Gettu used the meeting to tell staff how well he is doing, how objective he is, that he has no personal agenda. (Click here for previous Inner City Press report.)

  But when he opened the floor, the first staff member who dared make a suggestion -- that verbatim is now nearly identical to translation -- was cut off and told that his was only a personal opinion.

  A female staffer who made a criticism was told by Gettu to not be “emotional.” Eventually Gettu was telling the assembled staff that the UN “is good” and “if you don't like it, walk away.”

  In fact, it was in DGACM that the staff member elected vice president of the Staff Union in December was terminated -- Gettu says he didn't re-apply for a job so he clearly didn't need one -- and it was in DGACM that staff members were subjected to bed bugs, among other things, in the Albano Building.

  On July 31, the sources exclusively tell Inner City Press that Gettu told DGACM staff that they may remain in the Albano Building on 46th Street until 2017 when, he says, the UN may have a “DC5” building, proposed to be built on the Robert Moses playground south of 42nd Street. Click here for Inner City Press story.

  There are many hardworking staff in DGACM, and even some in management may mean well.

   But the type of self-serving speechifying at staff described to Inner City Press by sources on July 31 is indicative of the same UN which, for example among the press, evicted the News Agency of Nigeria from its work area claiming a lack of space while giving a large room to its favored UN Censorship Alliance (UNCA) -- which now says it will leave the room empty and locked from August 1 to August 19. We and the new Free UN Coalition for Access will have more on this. We'll have more on this.


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