We don’t usually cover individual strikes on Stronger Unions unless they’re about union rights – as opposed to terms and conditions – but tomorrow two groups of workers will take action that has much wider implications than the specific issues in dispute. Unite members at Amnesty International UK, and at the International Secretariat nearby, are on strike Tuesday in linked but separate disputes – the first time they have ever struck together.
But the disputes have a particular importance for trade unionists around the world, not just in London. The TUC has a memorandum of understanding with Amnesty International UK because of the vital work AI does for trade union rights and trade unionists under attack. What they are striking about is vital to the defence of those rights worldwide.
The proximate cause of the disputes at AIUK and the International Secretariat all flow from the decision of the international movement to shift its staff and activity into the global south. The workers at both support that decision, but the implications were inadequately considered when the decision was taken, and the way the decision is being implemented could do serious damage to the work Amnesty does to defend trade unionists and their human rights.
Amnesty has worked closely with the TUC over the last few years to campaign for trade union rights in countries like Colombia, Fiji, Iran and Zimbabwe. When the last crackdown happened in Burma, Amnesty and the TUC took the lead in organising the London demonstration and we were united again in welcoming the Arab Spring (our joint rally in Trafalgar Square took place the day after Egyptian President Mubarak stood down.) Amnesty have been clear for years that ILO core labour standards are fundamental human rights, and we have also worked together on LGBT rights, violence against women and domestic workers.
That work is at risk if the staff cuts happen at AIUK, and globally, the move to the global south needs to be handled properly. And our ability to work together will be severely undermined if the union rights of workers at Amnesty aren’t taken as seriously as workers anywhere around the world.
Email a message of support to striking AIUK workers at [email protected]