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UN Lags on Labor Rights, Food Workers Laid-Off in January, Staff Union Broken

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive

UNITED NATIONS, December 31 -- With the UN of Ban Ki-moon having effectively broken its own Staff Union, now food service workers inside the UN face "lay-off status" for at least one month. Click here to view document obtained by Inner City Press.

  Aramark had the contract for the UN cafeteria, Vienna Cafe, Delegates Dining Room and Lounge; it was extended through December 31 while being put out to bid.

   Then food workers in the UN exclusively told Inner City Press that Aramark has lost the contract and Culinart, a smaller firm, had been awarded it. (Inner City Press first reported this on October 28, here.)

  The food workers told Inner City Press there have been no communications to them about their future employment after December 31.

  Now on that day Inner City Press has obtained and is exclusively publishing this communication from Michael Pitkewicz of Culinart to the company's UN employees:

"The United Nations has informed us that the Delegates Dining Room will be closed from December 31, 2014 to January 30, 2015. During that time you will be on lay-off status. The Management Team will contact you to advise when you should report back to work."

  Happy holidays.

  Meanwhile inside the UN, Ban has effectively broken the UN Staff Union.

  Late October saw the submission to management of a Joint Statement by the former and current members of the Arbitration Committee, which restated the facts of their proceedings regarding the December 2013 Union elections and their subsequent rulings. But no response from Ban's UN, in the run up to his controlled "Global Town Hall" staff meeting in early January.

 Upstairs things have taken a turn toward the surreal, or toward the “sweatshop,” sources tell Inner City Press.

  When the 38 story UN Secretariat building was renovated, many floors were left with the “open plan” in which staff members no longer had walls or privacy. Instead there are so-called “focus booths” the size of closets in which one could make a phone call.

(On the press floor, the UN said it would maintain UN landline telephones in the booths, as requested by Inner City Press and now the Free UN Coalition for Access, to allow direct dialing of UN Peacekeeping missions like the one in Mali where nine peacekeepers from Niger were killed in November.

  But there are no phones, the old UN Correspondents Association never followed through, maintaining a large mostly unused room while media left without offices have been given the focus booths -- while on December 30 offering self-congratulation, here, before the return of the Censor in Chief. We'll have more on this.)

  But upstairs it is crazier. Now the proposal is for “hot desks.” As described to Inner City Press by staff members, it involves a “first come, first served” system for desk space. If a staff member is not among the earliest, he or she might be left with no desk to work from.

  He or she is also an issue raised. As one staff member put it, she as a woman does not necessarily want to be dealt out at random each day with “male staff members I don't want to be next to” a mere two feet away.

Why not just let us work from home, if this is how little they value us?” another staffer asked, demanding to know if Ban Ki-moon and “his insiders” will also work on hot desks.

  Inner City Press has, of course, sought up the Ban Administration's defense of the "hot desks," and offers these links: and

 We'll have more on this.

Footnote: on the controversy of the new head of investments of the UN Pension Fund, the old union raised the issue but says it has been rebuffed, despite the Maryland litigation Inner City Press reported on last month. Retaliation continues, and still the UN has no Freedom of Information Act applying to it. The Free UN Coalition for Access will continue to press on this issue and others. Watch this site.


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