Members of Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, employed by Amnesty International are urging the movement’s global assembly which begins its meeting tomorrow (August 2) in Johannesburg, South Africa to step in and mitigate the swingeing redundancy programme planned by the organisation.

Mass redundancies

Earlier this summer Amnesty International’s International Secretariat began a consultation process on a mass redundancy programme. As they stand, the planned cuts would see the reduction of 146 posts and 94 jobs. The organisation currently has a total of 755 positions.

Unite believes that the scale of the redundancies will drastically limit the organisation’s ability to deliver critical human rights work and risks the loss of expertise and institutional memory.

Management dismissed alternatives out of hand

The redundancy programme purpose is to close a £7.7 million deficit in the organisation’s budget. Senior management has so far refused to consider alternative financial measures to mitigate against compulsory redundancies. Unite has put forward proposals to reduce spending on extending the organisation’s reserves, to preserve jobs, but these have been dismissed out of hand.

The only option senior management has been prepared to consider to reduce job cuts was a voluntary freeze on the proposed cost of living increase staff are due to receive.

Mental health issues

As well as the proposed job cuts, Unite representatives have also been in negotiations with management on the implementation of recommendations of the independent reviews that followed the suicides last year of two Amnesty staff members Gaetan Mootoo and Rosalind McGregor. The Konterra Review found that 39 per cent of staff reported that they had developed mental or physical health issues as a direct result of working for the organisation.

Lessons not learned

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Alan Scott said: “The handling of the present financial crisis has shown that little has been learned from Amnesty International’s recent tragic past.

“The meeting of the global assembly is the critical opportunity for some soul searching on the part of senior management and to bring accountability into the organisation.

“There is more than one possible solution to rebuild the secretariat’s budget – it does not have to be all at the expense of staff.

“It is high time that senior management comes back to the table with proposals that go beyond staff cutting their salaries or taking voluntary redundancies.”

If action is not taken to reduce the redundancy programme then Unite will consider all potential options including industrial action to save jobs.


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235. Email: [email protected]

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.