Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy


9:07 am - October 17th 2012

by Newswire    


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Human rights workers at Amnesty International’s global headquarters, which is mainly based in London, will be striking today, says Unite the union.

The strike was sparked by the management’s unilateral withdrawal of its redundancy policy just a couple of hours prior to releasing details of a restructure that will potentially make dozens of employees redundant.

Unite regional officer, Alan Scott said: “While many appreciate cuts to staffing are inevitable, Amnesty management must stick to agreements they have signed and publicly stated they will honour in order to dispel the pervasive mistrust that has taken hold in the organisation.

“Dozens of staff face uncertainty about their immediate future. Many know that their posts will disappear before the end of 2012, but because management have torn up the redundancy policy, they have no idea of what will happen to them.”

Unite says that while dozens of redundancies are proposed among lower salaried workers, the number of senior directors – who each earn between around £88,000 and £107,000 per year – has increased from five to eight in the past 2 years.

Amnesty International is about to embark on a major restructure that will move its centralised global headquarters, currently mainly based in London, to 10 hubs around the globe and fundamentally change the way the organisation works.

A staff member, also part of Unite, said: “They’ve told us that dozens of us could lose our jobs, but we still support plans to make Amnesty more relevant and effective worldwide. All we’ve done is ask that they tell us how the changes proposed will make Amnesty work better, show us they have a clear plan and treat staff with a bit of respect as we move or leave. So far they’ve completely failed on all three counts.”

An overwhelming 96.5% of those who returned their postal ballot voted yes for strike action.

Staff members in offices around the globe (including Senegal, France, Uganda, Lebanon, New York, Hong Kong and South Africa) will participate in the strike.

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Reader comments


1. Amnesty Sucks

Why don’t they make it a permanent strike, they’ve done anything worthwhile for anyone but themselves anyway.

How much of amnesty’s funding comes from various taxpayer grants these days? Anyone got the details?

Amnesty UK financial statements available here: http://www.amnesty.org.uk/content.asp?CategoryID=10106

@ Dunc

In their accounts they only mention by name donations for restricted purposes. The unrestricted income is not broken down by source.

Some of it clearly comes from individual subscriptions, and some from other direct sources (like their charity shops) but there is still a massive gap. Which makes me suspect.

Anyone actually have numbers for them, for taxpayer funding (if any)?

From Wikipedia:

Amnesty International is financed largely by fees and donations from its worldwide membership. It says that it does not accept donations from governments or governmental organisations. According to the AI website, “these personal and unaffiliated donations allow AI to maintain full independence from any and all governments, political ideologies, economic interests or religions. We neither seek nor accept any funds for human rights research from governments or political parties and we accept support only from businesses that have been carefully vetted. By way of ethical fundraising leading to donations from individuals, we are able to stand firm and unwavering in our defence of universal and indivisible human rights.”[55]

However, AI did receive grants from the UK Department for International Development,[56] the European Commission,[57] the United States State Department[58][59] and other governments[60][61]

Still doesn’t say how much funding they get from these sources though.

Q&A
Strike at Amnesty’s International Secretariat
on 17 October
Why has the union voted to go out on strike?
Because Amnesty’s senior management has repeatedly breached agreements it has itself
negotiated with the union and signed that cover staff terms and conditions. Union members do
not want to strike, they want to work on human rights. The decision to strike was taken
reluctantly as a measure of last resort in the face of management’s contempt for agreements
reached with the union, and the union itself.
What was the particular trigger for balloting for strike action?
In early August, just two hours before senior management issued a plan to disestablish (get rid of)
dozens of jobs after merging two departments, it informed the union that the redeployment and
redundancy policies in place would not apply to 37 staff facing potential redundancy. Senior
management had repeatedly assured the staff beforehand that the current policies would apply
even though negotiations had begun in order to amend them. The affected staff are now in the
situation that they know that their jobs are going, but do not know what their rights are or what
process will be followed. Senior management has threatened to impose a new redundancy policy if
one is not agreed quickly with the union, while also saying that the jobs in question will not be
formally disestablished until a new policy is agreed.
What other agreements have management breached?
Those relating to:
n union representation rights
n non-permanent staff
n redundancy and redeployment
n disestablishment and substantial change of posts
n pay (compensation for inflation and hyperinflation)
For example, in early 2012 management told the union that they would not abide by the
longstanding agreement that staff automatically receive in April compensation for the previous
year’s cost of living increases, including compensation for high rates of inflation being suffered by
staff in some overseas offices. It took a dispute to resolve the issue, at the end of which the union
agreed to receive the compensation in a staggered fashion to help management with liquidity
problems.
Why are agreements so important?
Good industrial relations in any workplace are based on trust and clearly defined and respected
terms and conditions of employment. Senior management and union representatives at the IS have
spent months negotiating agreements so that all staff know what their entitlements and rights are
and can focus on their work. Every time senior management breaks these agreements, trust in
management is eroded, industrial relations deteriorate, insecurity and stress among staff increase,
and vast numbers of working hours are wasted in meetings in attempts to resolve the resulting
disputes. The repeated breaches of negotiated agreements by management in recent years,
combined with the threat to derecognize the union soon after the current Secretary General joined
the IS, shows that the current senior management do not treat agreements as binding and do not
respect the role of the union. This is of particular concern at a time of change and upheaval, and
when new agreements are being negotiated.
Wasn’t there a low level of participation in the strike ballot?
The 300+ union members represent the majority of permanent and non-permanent IS staff
members working in London and elsewhere. Most of the remainder of the approximately 500
people who work at the IS are managers, volunteers, people on short contracts and an increasing
number of consultants and contractors.
The full-time union official informed our union meeting that turnouts for postal ballots are
traditionally very low, and that our 56% turnout was extremely high in his long experience – and
that the 96.5% “yes” vote for strike action was an indisputable message that members felt they had
no choice but to take action to resolve the dispute.
Also, the union has many members working abroad, but UK trade union legislation does not
allow us to send them ballot papers in any other way than by post. We know that some papers did
not arrive on time or at all. Similarly, some staff travelling for long periods to research human
rights abuses and others who were away from their home could not access their ballot papers.
Doesn’t the strike concern the interests of a minority of people working at
the IS?
For over 50 years, under the union recognition agreement at the IS, the union has negotiated terms
and conditions for all staff apart from some managers. Whether individual members of staff are in
the union or not, they are covered by and benefit from agreements reached between management
and the union.
Isn’t the union jeopardizing Amnesty’s work and reputation by striking?
Amnesty cannot be an effective or credible human rights organization if it does not respect the
rights of its own workers, nor can staff be effective human rights activists if they are working in
an atmosphere where their own rights are being trampled on.
As an organization that insists that governments abide by agreements in international treaties,
it is imperative that we practice what we preach – not only for industrial relations, but also for the
integrity and moral authority of our organization. Amnesty works on behalf of trades unions and
for the right to freedom of association in its work with governments, at the UN and the
International Labour Organisation. Amnesty is even in the process of agreeing a formal
partnership with the International Trade Union Confederation.
Amnesty’s supporters expect Amnesty staff to be treated decently wherever they work – there
is a real risk to Amnesty’s reputation if it is seen as an organization that treats its own workers’
rights with contempt while paying out vast amounts of members’ contributions in “compensation”
to its departing senior managers.
Isn’t the strike really about the union’s opposition to management plans to
decentralize the International Secretariat?
No. Absolutely not. The union does not and has never opposed plans to move more staff and
functions out of London – its position is that the Amnesty movement and the IS management have
every right to take such decisions. Indeed, union members and other staff have engaged in many
discussions and made positive proposals to increase the effectiveness of Amnesty’s work all over
the world, and some have already volunteered to travel overseas on pilot projects. The union itself
simply works with management to try to ensure that affected staff are treated fairly, equitably and
with dignity, and that agreements are respected. The union would hope and expect, however, that
any change process would be managed competently, on the basis of a clear plan, good financial
planning and proper consultation.
Isn’t the strike really all about redundancy payouts for already highly paid
staff?
No. It is about management not honouring agreements they have negotiated and signed with the
union. The union has never taken action to demand more money, and has not put in a pay claim
for well over 20 years.
Isn’t it true that every pound spent on redundancy is a pound not spent on
human rights work?
Most Amnesty workers will be committed to human rights whether they work for Amnesty or not.
But it is absolutely true that management should be trying not to make people redundant unless
absolutely necessary. Indeed, that is required by UK law.
Also, workers at Amnesty have rights. Staff who are laid off through no fault of their own, some
after decades of loyal service, because of changes in organizational priorities, because they are
unable to move to new locations, or because of financial challenges facing the organisation, should
be treated in the manner set out in agreements signed by management. Amnesty has been and
should continue to be a standard-setter for how workers are treated.
Is it true that someone who has been at the IS for two years can walk off
with 63 weeks pay under the current policies?
No. This appears to be an imaginary figure put forward by senior management that lumps together
the money that person would get while working awaiting permanent redeployment and working
out their notice if they worked for a full year, plus their redundancy money (2×4 weeks), plus the
tax relief on the redundancy pay (as required by UK law and equivalent to three weeks’ pay).
Isn’t the 4 weeks salary per year worked (up to 20 years) way above what
other organizations offer?
No. The one million workers of the UK’s National Health Service, for example, are guaranteed this,
as are many other workers in smaller organizations, including those employed by AIUK.
Won’t some staff walk away with vast sums of money under the current
policies?
The most anyone would receive is 80 weeks’ pay – that applies to the small number of staff who
have served Amnesty for 20 or more years and who happen to be in jobs that are disappearing.
Until recently, senior management had never questioned the 4 weeks and indeed had repeatedly
said this provision would be respected even though they wanted other bits of the policy to be
renegotiated. This was the position even after the first group of people were put in potential
redundancy situations in August.
To put the cost of redundancies into perspective, the newly enlarged senior leadership team
now costs Amnesty around £1 million a year.
Isn’t Amnesty in financial crisis?
The union has repeatedly been told by senior management that there is no financial crisis, and
that there is a dedicated budget for the change process of Moving Closer to the Ground (i.e.
including money to pay for the predicted number of redundancies).
Is the strike at the International Secretariat separate from the strikes that
have happened recently at AIUK?
Yes, although there are links. Staff at both workplaces are members of the same union – UNITE –
but they had separate ballots over separate issues. However, there is a common theme of
management failing to abide by agreed policies.
Isn’t it about time that the Amnesty union stopped being so militant?
The union has barely ever taken action at the IS, and always seeks resolution not confrontation.
The union always tries to avoid disputes through discussion, negotiation and going to ACAS, the
arbitration and conciliation service – as it has done in recent months. There was a strike in 1996
over staff being laid off without warning, and a half-day strike in 2009 over management
breaching an agreement they had only just signed.
Union members at the IS do not want to strike – they want to do their human rights work.
Perhaps senior management should ask itself what has made so many staff so angry that they feel
they have no choice but to strike.
How is the union trying to resolve the dispute?
The union is ready to meet management at any time to end the dispute on the understanding that
they will abide by our agreements, and we are continuing to negotiate new policies in good faith,
hoping that management will respect them now and in the future.
What have management done to avert the strike?
No one in senior management outside of the Human Resources department has asked to meet the
union to find a way of avoiding strike action, or even asked to discuss what is pushing staff to the
point where they feel they have no option but to strike.
While the ballot was taking place, negotiations on the new redundancy policy were continuing.
It was at this point that management put forward a proposal halving redundancy pay, cutting out
redeployment and reducing notice periods. Indeed, management has done nothing since the ballot
began to restore trust or to move the negotiations nearer to agreement.
If you have further questions please contact:
supportamnestyworkers@hotmail.com

For an organisation that prides itself on not taking donations from government it fails miserably in keeping this lie secret. From it’s accounts at the Charity Commission DfID gave £680K in 2010.

And going on strike for what point. All it will do is harm the people it aims to look after. It won’t make any difference to the management or to those who fund it. Sometimes you just have to accept that your job is at an end. In this case due to the stupidity and averice of the management and the trustees inexcusable inattention to the running of AI, but that’s not a crime.

Tyler:

I know you are a libertarian and thus think that no real (economic/social) good can ever come of altruism… but your comments whenever LibCon writes about any form of charity do suggest that you for some reason feel the need to debunk the notion that altruism even exists (i.e. that basically charity workers are secretly motivated by self-enrichment / some form of unspecified leftist malevolence).

This seems absurd.

@Sadbutmadlad

”In this case due to the stupidity and averice of the management and the trustees inexcusable inattention to the running of AI, but that’s not a crime.”

The management would lose in court come a tribunal case. So in effect…besides;

”Amnesty cannot be an effective or credible human rights organization if it does not respect the
rights of its own workers, nor can staff be effective human rights activists if they are working in
an atmosphere where their own rights are being trampled on.
As an organization that insists that governments abide by agreements in international treaties,
it is imperative that we practice what we preach – not only for industrial relations, but also for the
integrity and moral authority of our organization. Amnesty works on behalf of trades unions and
for the right to freedom of association in its work with governments, at the UN and the
International Labour Organisation. Amnesty is even in the process of agreeing a formal
partnership with the International Trade Union Confederation.
Amnesty’s supporters expect Amnesty staff to be treated decently wherever they work – there
is a real risk to Amnesty’s reputation if it is seen as an organization that treats its own workers’
rights with contempt while paying out vast amounts of members’ contributions in “compensation”
to its departing senior managers.”

8. jungle

If you are substantially funded by government, can you really consider yourself a charity? I don’t know the details, but it looks as if the largest donor to AI is the government.

11. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@8 Jungle

(i.e. that basically charity workers are secretly motivated by self-enrichment / some form of unspecified leftist malevolence).

Maybe not unspecified leftist malevolence but for the management strata ,enlightened self interest perhaps.

@ 8 Jungle

I am indeed on the libertarian side, but that does not for a second mean I don’t believe in altruism. Libertarian means that we should be free, within reason and the bounds of the law, to do as we please with as little intereference from government as possible.

That does not rule out altruism or supporting charities or their work. The caveat to that is people should be allowed to choose which charities they support, or not at all. Giving taxpayers money direct to charities removes that choice from us, the taxpayer.

I also worry about why so many charities get government funding, and the effects that can have on the charitable sector itself. They can become reliant on that government money, and indeed some charities funding models simply relies on government lobbying and political patronage. I also fear that many charities have lost sight of their aims and are now little more than political sock puppets – lobbying and pushing an agenda of their own, with a high pulpit and taxpayer money to do it.

That aside, that was not the point I was trying to make about AI, who very roughly seem to get 10-20% of their income from governments. They are by no means the worst when it comes to being a “fake charity”.

I was really asking the question about their funding to gauge if they really were a charity these days, or more another heavily unionised arm of the public sector. I truly don’t care if the workers at AI go on strike. They are entitled to after all, even if it is a little shameful given their altruism doesn’t seem to extend as far as the people they aim to help when it comes to their own pay and conditions.

I do care if they are subsuming vast amounts of taxpayer money to do it with.

They do also seem to pay their staff really quite well, given the data from Amnesty’s own audited financial accounts:

There were 230 staff employed including part-time and job-share posts. This number also includes those who
joined and left during the year. Overall, this is the equivalent of 179 full-time posts.
Salary band

£000s
Dec-11
numbers
9 mths
Dec-10
numbers
0 – 10 27 22
10 – 20 41 47
20 – 30 42 47
30 – 40 64 60
40 – 50 39 26
50 – 60 13 10
60 – 70 3 3
90 – 100 1 1

Amnesty International on strike? You don’t say. I hope they will return to work immediately, so that the killing in Syria, the labour camps in North Korea and the mistreatment of women in Saudi Arabia will stop immediately. – Or won’t it make any difference: http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/amnesty-international-strike/ ?

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 14

Andreas, I think that was literally the stupidest article I’ve ever read, and I’ve read your articles before.

OMG, injustice still exists despite the existence of charities? What a scandal! Thank god a brave blogger is here to uncover this dark secret!

Seriously, if you have to spam this site, at least try to link to something that isn’t horribly moronic and embarrassing.

16. douglas clark

I will continue to make my modest contribution to Amnesty International. Which is a personal decision based on my understanding of the unmet need for justice in this world. If some governments also want to contribute, then that is a step in the right, not the wrong, direction.

Libertarians are incapable of tying their own bootlaces and Ayn Rand was an idiot.

I’ve always had my doubts about Amnesty. It comes across as too ‘Sting’-like … and so many charities seem to be self-serving and about giving good jobs for their employees.
I worked as a van driver for a cancer charity recently, and that was like that. The portraits in the boardroom showed how all it’s top people had received OBEs and MBEs.

And a family member works for a charity that looks after young vulnerable adults coming out of care homes and underage asylum seekers, and it sound’s like a racket too. It has some great PR stuff on its website, but is more about the management and their salaries, (I’m told).

@ 16 Douglas Clark

I suppose you want the great and benevolent government to do everything for you then?

Libertarians are not against charity – indeed I would bet most are all for it. What they are against is when a charity ceases to be such, relying heavily on government for it’s funding, becoming more another (unnaccountable) arm of state. Then lobbying for more money to further its existence and removing an individuals choice whether to fund it or not.

Amnesty International is going the way of Human Rights Watch – i.e. an increasingly compromised organisation subverted as a subtle tool of ‘western’ soft power.
How this has happened would make a great investigative story.

And a family member works for a charity that looks after young vulnerable adults coming out of care homes and underage asylum seekers, and it sound’s like a racket too. It has some great PR stuff on its website, but is more about the management and their salaries, (I’m told).
truyen sex

Rather than ungrounded wishy-washy comments on what is AI, where it gets money etc. One should do some RESEARCH on who is losing their jobs, it’s impact and who should really lose there job. i.e Secretary General Salil Shetty.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-20320623


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. John Anderson

    “@libcon: Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy http://t.co/Pd2DktdN” Amnesty respecting the rights & welfare of its workers. Not.

  2. Jason Brickley

    Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy http://t.co/hUsRi1TK

  3. Arthur Clune

    Wow @amnestyuk that's shitty behaviour http://t.co/KtlJ0uJC

  4. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy http://t.co/EiizlhsL

  5. Alex Braithwaite

    Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/7ad2tlHh via @libcon

  6. BevR

    Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/ADJPaNM2 via @libcon

  7. Muwaten Libnani

    7- Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy
    http://t.co/zKtxg5ZE
    #Media #AmnestyOnStrike

  8. Amnesty on Strike

    "Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy" http://t.co/M5sPI2w7 by @libcon /via @MuwatenLibnani #AmnestyOnStrike

  9. dimachami

    "Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy" http://t.co/M5sPI2w7 by @libcon /via @MuwatenLibnani #AmnestyOnStrike

  10. ?

    Ooh, this has got to be a bit awkward for Amnesty…"Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy" http://t.co/5hGfahne via @libcon

  11. StavrosTheologou

    RT @libcon: Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy http://t.co/ozofi4GZ

  12. Mark Carrigan

    Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy http://t.co/RziXI7E2

  13. Hale A.

    Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy http://t.co/RziXI7E2

  14. ???????? ??????

    “@mark_carrigan: Amnesty UK workers go on strike over redundancy http://t.co/FSjCsBbV”

  15. Emek Güçlü

    Uluslararas? Af Örgütü çal??anlar? grev karar? ald?…. http://t.co/pM0CbKk6

  16. halil drebbi

    @Dputamadre http://t.co/Dh9XpCCI

  17. Andreas Schlüter

    @Dputamadre http://t.co/Dh9XpCCI

  18. Claire Baker D

    Just read about the workers at Amnesty going on strike today. Not impressed, Amnesty! http://t.co/dTfE5Vip





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