Union calls for all senior leaders at Amnesty International UK to step down

The union Unite is calling for all senior leaders at Amnesty International UK to step down after reports of racism at the human rights organisation. 

The union said it would put forward a motion calling for all the AIUK senior management team and its chair to resign after accounts from former staff members about their experiences of encountering racism at the organisation. 

It also accused AIUK of “misdirection” and “inaccuracies” in its response to media coverage earlier this week. 

It comes after the emergence of an internal report that found incidents of overt racism at Amnesty’s international secretariat, including senior staff using the P-word and the N-word.

Third Sector spoke to three former staff members at AIUK about their experiences of working at the UK body, which is a separate organisation to the international secretariat. 

Kieran Aldred, who worked for AIUK as an advocacy officer for three years until 2018, described it as “institutionally racist”.

Aldred said in a tweet that Unite had passed a resolution calling for the resignation of the senior management team, including director Kate Allen and chair Eilidh Douglas.

Allen announced last month that she intended to step down later this year after 20 years in the role. 

All three ex-employees had also previously called for AIUK’s leadership to resign. 

The Guardian newspaper also included negative comments about AIUK from former staff members in an article earlier this week. 

A “wholehearted” apology was released on behalf of the international secretariat, and a separate statement by AIUK promised to investigate the allegations against it “thoroughly in line with our policies and procedures”.

But Unite said in a statement today: “Union members have alleged that the official organisational response to the media story contains inaccuracies, omissions, and misdirection, and insufficiently addresses the historic nature of the experience of our colleagues.”

The union said it believed that the toleration of racism at a human rights organisation – whether through ignorance, incompetence, indifference, inertia, or any other cause – was unacceptable.

In addition, there had been unacceptable failings by AIUK’s leadership, said Unite, as it presented 10 points it resolved to act on.

This included defending any union members victimised for speaking out against racism and supporting members to exercise their conscientious objection where their role required them to deliver an organisational response they believed to be untrue or harmful.

Unite said it would also investigate the legal, political and practical implications of adopting a position of non-compliance with grievance and disciplinary procedures until it was satisfied they were being implemented in a non-discriminatory way. 

AIUK said it understood the union was still drafting its motion and the organisation would not be able to provide a comment until AIUK leadership had seen the final version.

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