Fujitsu layoffs are discriminatory, says Unite

The union has questioned whether compulsory redundancies at a Fujitsu IT services unit disproportionately affect women, Indians and part-timers
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Unite, the UK's largest union, has suggested Fujitsu may be disproportionately targeting women and minorities for redundancy.

Fujitsu is in the process of making almost 900 of its 12,000 UK workers redundant. Unite on Monday said it had examined the data on proposed compulsory layoffs in the company's Applications Services unit, and that its analysis raised questions about Fujitsu's redundancy process.

"On the face of it, there are certainly legitimate questions we want answers to," Unite's national officer Peter Skyte said. "It appears that a disproportionate number of women, part-time and ethnic minority workers have been made redundant."

Fujitsu's Applications Services unit employs around 1,500 people. According to Unite's analysis, 6.7 percent of women in the unit were selected for compulsory redundancy, compared with 3.7 percent of men. In addition, 10.4 percent of Indians and 9.1 percent of part-timers were chosen, compared with 3.9 percent of other groups.

Skyte said Unite's figures, which had been calculated from data provided by Fujitsu, were not necessarily indicative of redundancies across the whole company.

Unite members were on strike on Monday as part of a series of actions over pay, pensions and the planned redundancies. In August, Fujitsu said it would make up to 1,200 layoffs in the UK, but it now expects to cut 876 jobs in total. These include 586 voluntary redundancies and 290 compulsory redundancies, according to a Fujitsu spokesperson.

Fujitsu on Monday denied the suggestion that it had targeted certain groups, noting that it had consulted with Unite, other unions and employee representatives throughout the redundancy programme. The Fujitsu spokesperson said the company has a multi-layered redundancy process, which includes scrutiny to make sure there has not been any discrimination.

"There is a systematic process," said the spokesperson. "Redundancy is worked out on skills, and those are looked at independently of any aspect of sex or race."

Workers had been assessed for redundancy on criteria including knowledge of the job, critical skills, business considerations and commitments, and personal performance, according to Skyte.

Fujitsu said it had responded to the union's concerns. "We are aware of the points raised by Unite and have responded detailing our reasons as to why we are confident our selection process was fair and was not discriminatory," Fujitsu said in a statement.

The spokesperson added that anyone who felt they had been discriminated against could file an appeal.

The Unite strike at Fujitsu is expected to continue with a two-day stoppage on 14-15 January, following action on 18 December and on 7, 8 and 11 January. Skyte said it was difficult to gauge how many employees had participated, as the bad weather has been keeping people at home. However, he said picket lines had been formed at Fujitsu offices in Belfast, Stevenage, Crewe, Solihull, Wakefield and Manchester in December.

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