UN tour guides hold sick-day labour action

6 December 2007 –

Nearly two dozen United Nations tour guides called in sick today in a labour action which added impetus to a previously planned meeting convened this afternoon by the world body’s top public information official to address their concerns.

Tours at the UN were drastically reduced after the 22 guides called in sick. Spokesperson Marie Okabe said visitors who had made prior reservations were generally able to go on their tour as scheduled, but all others were prevented from visiting UN Headquarters.

The action “must have caused some inconvenience,” said Mr. Ban when asked by reporters to comment.

The Secretary-General also paid tribute to the value of the work of the multilingual staff members. “Tour guides are very important to connecting the UN and the outside world,” he said. “They have been playing an important role.”

Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Kiyotaka Akasaka “is going to discuss this matter [and] what their complaints and their issues are.”

Mr. Akasaka had planned to join the scheduled meeting and announce that he would constitute a working group to discuss the issues of concern, according to Ms. Okabe.

“The meeting is scheduled as planned and the United Nations is fully committed to dialogue with the Tour Guides,” she said.

The guides are reportedly seeking improvements in their conditions of service, including benefits, sick leave and job security.

Since 1952, when the UN began offering guided tours of its iconic New York Headquarters, approximately 37 million people have visited. Annual attendance now fluctuates at around 400,000 visitors, who have the option of tours in over 20 languages.

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