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Amnesty International staff take strike action
"Workers' Rights = Human Rights", read the placards outside the Amnesty International offices in Shoreditch, London. Unite members at Amnesty International UK (AIUK) exercised those rights when striking and picketing all day on 10 October against the threat of a large-scale cost-cutting programme and compulsory redundancies.
By lunchtime around 80 strikers and supporters had assembled. Among the support messages sent to the strikers was one from Wisconsin workers, who noted that Amnesty had supported trade union rights in the Wisconsin struggle.
This second one-day strike - the first was on 12 September - showed management that workers in the office were not prepared to accept an estimated £2.5 million cuts when income to Amnesty UK is rising, which is unusual in the not-for-profit sector during the recession.
However, management is using the excuse of increased costs to Amnesty's International Secretariat - where workers are also believed to be preparing industrial action - to seek job losses amongst the 204 members of staff in AIUK.
Unite regional officer Alan Scott said: "At this rate, Amnesty's management is going to be responsible for the death of AIUK as a campaigning organisation.
"Staff fear that lasting damage will be caused to Amnesty's human rights work because of senior management's headlong rush into this huge cost-cutting exercise, which is being implemented with the misguided blessing of AIUK's board".
Daniela Manske, one of the Unite reps in the AIUK Shoreditch headquarters, said that since the first strike, no meaningful negotiations have taken place and the scale of redundancies will not be known until 25 October.
The strike was well supported, with Unite having about 70% membership in the office, and only senior managers and human resources staff went into work.
Messages of support can be sent to Unite members at firstname.lastname@example.org and donations to the campaign can be made payable to: 'TGWU ACTS 1/524 Central London Branch' with the words 'Amnesty International UK Strike Fund' on the back and sent to the Unite reps at AIUK's offices c/o The Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 10 October 2012 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.