TUC and Amnesty sign new partnership

This morning (Wednesday 25 February) members of the TUC General Council watched as AI UK Chief Executive Kate Allen and TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber signed a Memorandum of Understanding to bring our two organisations closer together.

Brendan recalled the work that Amnesty International founder Peter Benenson had done for the TUC in Spain under Franco, and said "it shouldn't come as any surprise … that trade union rights are human rights, but there are a lot of people – and a lot of politicians – who don't make the connection."

Kate said "our activists are your activists. Our concerns are your concerns. Our ambitions for individual liberty and social justice are deeply rooted and passionately held; they are mutual and shared."

The new partnership we're now signed up to doesn't just set out our mutual belief in trade union and human rights, though. It's not just for show. The reason we wanted to set out our partnership in concrete (well, ok, paper!) was to force ourselves not just to work together – which we've been doing for years – but not to stop.

Under the memorandum, we are committed to keep going – twenty-five shared urgent actions every year; a ten percent annual increase in union organisations affiliated to Amnesty. Things we can be measured by, so there's no slipping back!

I think this is a really positive step forwards, and I was cheered by the number of General Council members (both today and as we put the Memorandum through committees over the last few weeks) who have been so evidently pleased that they're part of such a joint commitment.

The work we've done on Colombia, LGBT rights, Iran and violence against women has been really popular with members of trade unions and Amnesty International (of course, they're often one and the same people!) and the more we can work together the more powerful those actions will be.

What we add to each other is that Amnesty gets the collective action of organisations of millions of people, while trade unions get the concern for the individual that motivates us to our collective activity. As the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci once wrote to his wife – from a prison cell in fascist Italy - "how can I say I love the masses if I haven't truly loved an individual?" Putting Amnesty and the TUC together is putting love for individuals and for the masses together.

You can see the memorandum here.

Owen Tudor

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