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At UN, Dark Talk of Hot Desks, “Ban Ki-moon's Sweatshop," Staff Allege

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, October 3 -- With the UN of Ban Ki-moon having effectively broken its Staff Union, now things take 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 today. 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.)

  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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