UNITED NATIONS - U.N. staffers heckled and booed Secretary-General Annan yesterday in a raucous meeting after he presented a "management reform" plan that includes cutting jobs for New Yorkers employed at Turtle Bay.
In a clear sign that U.N. employees have lost confidence in a leader who rose from their ranks, one staffer told the secretary-general bluntly, "Nobody believes you."
When asked by a staffer if U.N. jobs will be farmed out to Kinko's from now on, Mr. Annan showed how out of touch he has become from his underlings and from his fellow New Yorkers. "What is Kinko?" he asked.
Mr. Annan's plan - warmly endorsed by America's U.N. ambassador, John Bolton, who has long urged profound reform of how the organization is managed - will add $510 million to the current annual $10 billion budget, according to the U.N.'s estimates.
Those costs - for improving information technologies, creating a new fast-deployed peacekeeping force, and new staff training - are expected to be offset by future savings, according to a senior U.N. official. But some of the budget-cutting the official pointed to, such as unspecified savings in the procurement department, do not necessarily require ambitious plans like the one unveiled yesterday. And there is no guarantee the "reforms" will be put into effect.
"Just as this building, after 56 years of ad hoc repair and maintenance, now needs to be fully refurbished from top to bottom, so our organization, after decades of piecemeal reform, now needs a thorough strategic refit," Mr. Annan told the 191-member General Assembly, where he hopes the proposal will be approved.
But staffers, angry at not being consulted about the plan, vowed to fight many of its provisions, including the loss of jobs in the New York headquarters, which will be, as Mr. Annan described it, "offshored" and "outsourced" to other countries.
Mr. Annan was met by angry heckling when he walked into a U.N. hall to address staffers late yesterday, and the booing audience cut off his speech several times. The president of the staff union, Rosemarie Waters, told the secretary-general the union plans a "comprehensive campaign among member states and the media" to defeat his reform plan.
A senior official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity told The New York Sun he could not estimate how much money would be lost by New York City as result of shifting jobs from "the richest city in the richest member state" to other countries - or even how many jobs would be lost by New Yorkers.
"Noncore" services, like those provided by the 312-employees department, which supplies translations in six languages, would be moved to a country like China, where the job could be done far more cheaply. The cost-saving is estimated at $35 million a year. A Russian staffer, who said he had worked late nights when the Security Council passed a resolution on terrorism after September 11, 2001, asked Mr. Annan, "Am I non-core?"
The plan is not "to take away your jobs," Mr. Annan said. "But I cannot say that at the end of the day some jobs will not be lost."
A staffer, who introduced himself as a New Yorker born "not far from here," said, "You say that not too many people will lose their jobs, but I am telling you, Mr. Secretary General, nobody believes you."
The United Nations employs 13,000 staffers in the field, while 4,200 work at Turtle Bay, according to the official who briefed the press yesterday. By outsourcing and shifting more resources to field work, he said, the United Nations could save $35 million each year. Additionally, savings at the procurement department, which he did not specify, could add up to $400 million.
Those savings, he said, could offset the costs specified in Mr. Annan's plan, which include the buyout of nonessential staffers, up to $100,000 a person; improving staff conditions in posts away from New York, $280 million; upgrading information technology, $120 million; and training, $10 million.
Mr. Annan called for "a radical overhaul" and "a thorough strategic refit of the Secretariat," Mr. Bolton told the General Assembly yesterday. "We endorse those objectives. Those are our objectives and there will be considerable hard work ahead to achieve them."