Amnesty International workers start strike

AP News
Posted: Nov 20, 2012 5:58 AM

LONDON (AP) — Amnesty International workers in London walked off the job on Tuesday as the second strike in as many months raised questions about the organization's ability to remain one of the world's pre-eminent human rights advocates.

Workers from Amnesty's international and local British operations picketed their London headquarters, an embarrassment to a group that campaigns for the rights of workers. The walkouts are a public airing of staff complaints that have been building for years, with tensions rising dramatically in recent weeks as Amnesty's international operations prepare to re-organize.

Spokeswoman Jo Cardwell from the Unite union said several hundred workers from Amnesty's two London offices were taking part in the job stoppage.

"We've got a lot of people on the picket line," she said. Some carried candles.

The planned organizational changes include transferring some of its 500 jobs from a London base to 10 regional hubs around the world — part of an effort to be closer to places where human rights violations occur.

The organization says it's not really sure how many jobs will go, and that uncertainty alone has caused frustration and anger among its employees. Amnesty's British workers, meanwhile, reject the notion of handing over more money to international operations — as their jobs might be at risk.

Amnesty's program director for the Americas, Susan Lee, resigned last week, expressing shock at "senior management's failure to honor its commitments to treat staff fairly and with respect." The next day, the union voted to strike, having "lost all confidence in senior management because it lacks integrity, competence, transparency and accountability."

"The organization's ability to conduct research and campaigning in defense of human rights has been undermined, and the organization faces a threat to its very existence," the resolution said.