By Andrew Holt
Employees of Amnesty International UK will be taking strike action today to protest against a cost cutting programme within the organisation, including redundancies.
Fears are that international human rights work will be hindered by the financial cuts being proposed by the senior management and board of Amnesty International UK (AIUK).
The organisation needs to save £2.5million in order to balance next year’s budget.
The financial cuts are due to the intention to increase contributions to Amnesty’s international headquarters. Staff have already agreed to a pay freeze.
Union members have said they do not object to increasing contributions to the global Amnesty movement in order to extend the organisations reach and influence in the global South, but they do object to the decision to increase that amount at such a speed that it not only impacts on their human rights work, but must also lead to redundancies.
A statement from AIUK members of Unite said: “Amnesty UK is a great organisation that does vital and important work. We strike with a heavy heart and after long negotiations because we have serious concerns that the financial cuts proposed by senior management are threatening the organisation’s future.
"We fully support Amnesty’s growth in the global South and the need to invest in that growth, but it makes no financial sense to make wide ranging cuts to a thriving branch of the organisation.
“Failure to invest in a successful Amnesty section doesn't just let down Amnesty UK's hard working staff, it lets down the dedicated members who invest through their annual subscriptions, donations and activism.
"Our senior management is undermining our members’ hard work by acting in a way that will affect Amnesty’s ability to grow in the long term and campaign for human rights change."
A statement from AIUK head office in London said: "We entirely respect the right of our staff to take strike action but regret that they feel the need to do so, particularly as the action is over how much money Amnesty International UK should contribute to increasing human rights work in the global South. That’s something we cannot and wouldn’t want to change.
"AIUK has received notification from Unite that members have voted in support of a 24-hour strike on 12 September. This follows AIUK embarking on a cost savings programme to enable it to make a larger financial contribution to the global Amnesty movement.
"The union’s ballot was over redundancies - which we have said we expect to be necessary - and over not renegotiating this financial contribution.
"The highest decision-making body of the Amnesty movement, the International Council Meeting (ICM), made decisions on how much national sections like AIUK should contribute and how quickly this should rise, to increase Amnesty’s work in the global South; the Board of AIUK will abide by ICM decisions.
"Industrial action will not change this but we will remain in contact with union officials on this matter and on other substantive questions raised in the process of reducing costs at AIUK. We have been and will continue to work to keep redundancies to a minimum."
Unite regional officer, Alan Scott added: “Our members will be striking because they have serious concerns that the cuts proposed by the senior management of Amnesty International UK are threatening its future. They have signed up to an unsustainable process which is, frankly, untenable and shoots Amnesty’s growth in the foot.
“The amount which Amnesty UK gives must correlate to the amount at which it grows. Anything else is short term, un-strategic and risks financial ruin. Making redundancies when there is no financial crisis is at best misguided. We urge management to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the union."
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