Over 150 people linking arms around the international secretariat of Amnesty International in Islington, north London, this morning (Wednesday).
They were pickets in the Unite union, on strike against Amnesty bosses’ refusal to respect longstanding agreements on redundancy.
Placards in at least nine languages used Amnesty’s own slogan “workers’ rights are human rights”—calling on bosses to practice what they preach.
Workers danced in a giant circle, and whooped and cheered as vans, cars and buses honked in support.
“We just want to make a noise about what’s happening,” one picket told Socialist Worker. “They are reneging on agreements that we’ve had for years”.
Management had announced its withdrawal from redundancy agreements just hours before announcing a restructure that could mean dozens of redundancies.
“There have been so many breaches of trust at the organisation that this was the last straw,” said Unite steward Jo Cardwell.
“We had a really packed union meeting and voted to ballot for industrial action. It’s been really solid, and the mood of people on the picket line has been fantastic.”
Workers are dedicated to the human rights campaigning of Amnesty International, but are worried about its future.
“Our senior leadership team earn £1 million between just eight people,” one worker pointed out. “And they are telling low paid people who’ve worked here for decades that they want to get rid of them on the cheap.”
The pickets represented a huge proportion of the full time workers at the site. Others struck at offices in Senegal, Paris, Uganda, Beirut, New York, Hong Kong and Johannesburg.
In the afternoon they marched to a rally in a nearby church for songs and speeches. One shop steward summed up the mood.
“Obviously going on strike and taking on the powers that be is a hard thing to do,” she said. “But coming to work today was easier than it has been for a very long time.
“It’s been a fantastic day, and it puts us in a much better position. This is about something very simple—the idea that when you sign an agreement to do something, you do it.”
The workers have now presented a suggested policy to management, but warn that if bosses don’t move then they will escalate call another strike, this time for two days.
The international secretariat coordinates the work of Amnesty’s chapters around the world—such as Amnesty UK in nearby Shoreditch, where workers have struck twice in the last six weeks over job losses.
In an indicative vote last week, those workers voted overwhelmingly to coordinate further strikes across both sites.
Send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org and send cheques to Easton Street Strike Fund, c/o Unite, Amnesty International International Secretariat, Peter Benenson House, 1 Easton Street, London WC1X 0DW