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Amnesty International staff to vote on strike action

20 Sep 2019 News

More than 300 Amnesty International employees and members of the trade union Unite will vote on whether to strike over planned redundancies at the charity.

The ballot will open for six weeks from 26 September, to make sure employees of the charity working abroad can also vote.

Earlier this year Amnesty International announced it planned to reduce its headcount by 146, which had been expected to lead to 93 job losses. It now expects that compulsory redundancies will not exceed 20. 

Unite said it would proceed with the vote because the charity had used donations to boost reserves rather than keep people in work.

Amnesty International employs about 650 people across the international secretariat. It said in a statement that it is confident it can reduce the number redundancies still further through redeployment opportunities.

Union says Amnesty should scrap redundancies by using its reserves

Alan Scott, regional coordinating officer at Unite, said: “Amnesty’s management can still have the opportunity to prevent industrial action by tabling proposals that redundancies will be avoided by using a fraction of its reserves.

“Unfortunately Amnesty’s management has refused to countenance reducing the amount of money being pumped into reserves in order to save jobs, and therefore members felt they had no option but to ballot for industrial action.”

Amnesty said in its statement the redundancies were necessary because of harsh financial realities and a need to put its international secretariat onto more stable footing for the future.

Change of strategy at Amnesty

The charity announced in May that five of its seven senior leadership team would be made redundant along with others of its staff after a change in strategy.

Secretary general Kumi Naidoo at Amnesty International said then that a coalition team would lead from November.

This followed an external review published in February by consultancy KonTerra, which was commissioned after the suicides of two members of staff.

The KonTerra Staff Wellbeing Review explored how employees and volunteers should be supported within the charity, which was described by some interviewees in the report as a "toxic culture".

'Compulsory redundancies will not exceed 20'

Amnesty's statement said: “The original consultation paper, published 4 June 2019, involved a proposal to disestablish 146 roles. However, after a series of initiatives, we are able to confirm that the actual number of compulsory redundancies will not exceed 20 people. We are confident that we can reduce this figure further through redeployment opportunities.

“We are very grateful to everyone who has engaged constructively with the consultation and enabled us to reduce the number of redundancies. Nonetheless, this provides little solace to those at risk of losing their jobs.

“We deeply regret that these redundancies have been made necessary due to harsh financial realities and the need to put the Secretariat onto a more stable footing for the future. This is a painful and difficult decision, and we will do everything in our power to support impacted staff.

“We fully recognise and support Amnesty International employees’ right to strike.”

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