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UN Washes Its Hands of A/V Workers, Allows Commercial Use of Its Name

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 13 -- How different is the UN from sneaker or clothing chains which say they are not responsible for how their contractors treat workers, in Bangladesh for example?

This month the UN transferred the contract for the audio - visual technicians who work in the UN, some for more than a decade, to a company called TeamPeople, which immediately put the jobs up for bid on CraigsList. Workers say it is to break the union.

At the June 13 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's spokesperson Martin Nesirky the following:

Inner City Press: This is a labor question. The contract for the audio-visual services was recently awarded, and the company that got it is [inaudible]. [ICP note: it's TeamPeople.] They put out a press release, you know, saying how, saying a number of things. They’ve also started recruiting even on Craigslist. So, I wanted to know two things. One, I’m told that there is some kind of UN rules against using UN names in a corporate press release. I wonder if this violates the rule or if there was some waiver. Two, how this impacts the people currently working at the stakeout. They’ve been told to reapply for their jobs. Are they in the same position as anyone, you know, applying over Craigslist? Or there is some provision for people that have worked here for decades to have a leg-up in continuing to work?

Spokesperson Nesirky: I think I will be able to provide you something on that a little bit later, Matthew.

And sure enough, after close of business the following came in:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 5:55 PM
Subject: Your questions on the new audiovisual contrac
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Regarding the press release issued by TeamPeople: As a general rule, the use of the UN name is reserved for official purposes and is not authorized for commercial purposes. This general prohibition is included in our general conditions of contract and forms part of every contract we conclude with vendors. However, this prohibition does not extend to the provision of purely factual information.

As for the audiovisual contract and its impact on current employees: The new contractor has sole responsibility for supplying the technicians, i.e. sound engineers, camera operators and studio technicians. The UN's contract is with the contractor only and the UN is not involved in the contractor's hiring processes.

  So the "purely factual" loophole eats up the prohibition on commercial use of the UN's name, at least under Ban Ki-moon. Worse, the second paragraph could come write out of the past playbook of Nike or Kathy Lee Gifford.

   Even with regard to the cafeteria workers of UN contractor Aramark, which is delaying opening the Delegates' Lounge and Dining Room while renting them out for big money on weekends, the UN said it had some concern. But on A/V? Watch this site.

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