An international solidarity campaign has been launched after United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki Moon derecognised unions representing the groups's 65,000 workers.
Unions have been seeking greater protection for members undertaking increasingly dangerous missions. Most are united in the Co-ordinating Committee for Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA).
CCISUA says that in the last 10 years there have been 555 attacks on UN staff and more than 200 deaths. The unions have been seeking improved health and safety protection and a reduction in the use of private security contractors.
They have also called for improvements to peacekeeping missions, better protection for whistleblowers, improved screening-out of war criminals and human-rights violators seeking UN posts, the retention of experienced staff and effective redeployment procedures.
In response, Ban unilaterally stripped the unions of negotiating rights and abolished the negotiating process. CCISUA said that had removed their ability to take up issues affecting the safety and lives of UN workers.
CCISUA said: “Because of the global work of the UN this is a potentially powerful and very negative message to give the world - that unions are not welcome, even in an organisation dedicated to peace, social justice and upholding international conventions on freedom of assembly and collective bargaining.”
It called on unions around the world to confront the UN about Ban's decision. The International Trade Union Confederation has already taken up the issue.
LabourStart.org has launched a campaign in support of the UN workers. Its statement said: “On 11 July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon derecognised the staff unions representing the organization's 65,000 staff, many working in dangerous locations and war zones.
“He now refuses to negotiate and instead offers only to 'consult' on safety and security, welfare and conditions of service … in an organization supposed to uphold international human rights and labour rights conventions.
“If the UN stops applying these to its own staff, why should governments bother to uphold worker rights? The UN's staff unions are campaigning for Ban Ki-moon to reverse his decision by the end of the year.”