The London office of Amnesty International UK was almost empty on Wednesday of last week as workers struck to defend their jobs. There were at least 30 workers on the picket line by mid-morning.
“It’s a fantastic turnout with staff here from across the organisation,” Unite union steward Rich Cowley told Socialist Worker. “We’ve had great support from across the trade union movement—and from other Amnesty chapters around the world.”
This was the first strike at Amnesty UK in over two decades. Few of the workers there ever expected to find themselves on strike. But they have been angered by management’s plans to restructure the organisation to save £2.5 million—including through redundancies.
“This process of cuts is just being pushed through and management aren’t listening to us,” said Laura, another striker. “We’re meant to be a movement that’s about everyone working together.
“And we’re part of a movement that says if you don’t think something is right, you stand up and do something.” She added, “It took a lot of soul-searching to come out on strike, but now the feeling is really good. You can see that by how many people are out.”
The area around the picket line was bedecked with messages of solidarity, tea and cakes, all alongside Amnesty’s slogan, “Workers’ rights are human rights”.
“This isn’t a normal workplace,” said publishing worker Nicki Parker. “Everyone works here because they are deeply committed to human rights.
“They routinely work long hours for no extra pay as a matter of course—even when they work part time. It isn’t the sort of place you would expect to see strike action, and it’s not a decision we took lightly. But people voted for it overwhelmingly.”
More than 100 people came to a lunchtime rally in support of the strike, including workers from other NGOs in the area. And over the course of the day delivery workers from Royal Mail and UPS refused to cross the picket line.
So far management have refused to budge, and a number of pickets told Socialist Worker they expected to be out again. “We have to be proud of what we are doing today,” concluded Rich. “Every now and then people have to stand up and say we’ve had enough.”