Fujitsu workers go on strike in Manchester

Unite has started its one-day strike at Fujitsu sites in the north west, though the PCS union has called off its own walkout after receiving a doubled pay offer from the IT services provider
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Unite members at some of Fujistu's key UK sites are striking over a breakdown in industrial relations with the IT services giant.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union was lined up to join in the 24-hour strike on Monday, but called off its participation on Friday after receiving an improved pay offer from Fujitsu. Nonetheless, the walkout by Unite members has apparently left at least one datacentre largely unmanned and many customers with diminished support.

"A large number of both private and public sector customers of Fujitsu are covered by members who are on strike today," Unite representative Alan Jenney told ZDNet UK on Monday morning.

The union said there has been a protest outside Fujitsu's central Manchester site and a dozen-strong picket outside its Crewe location, where Jenney himself used to be employed before being made compulsorily redundant.

Jenney's case is central to Unite's complaints against the IT services supplier in Crewe. Unite has accused Fujitsu of victimising the union rep by selecting him for redundancy without going through proper procedures. The site, which houses programmers, hardware support staff and helpdesk operatives, downed tools on 30 June over the issue.

Meanwhile, at the Manchester site Fujitsu is accused of breaking agreements over union recognition, pay, benefits, pensions, redundancy and redeployment. According to Jenney, Fujitsu reneged on a promise made last year to establish a body to discuss pension issues with staff.

Both the Manchester and Crewe locations have a wide variety of customers. The PCS employees who decided not to strike on Monday, due to Fujitsu offering a pay rise at twice the rate of inflation, tend to work specifically with public sector customers such as HMRC, the Home Office, the DVLA and the Ministry of Defence.

"The Salford datacentre is essentially unmanned at the moment," Jenney said, adding that this facility hosts "a number of customers' servers". Only managers are left in the building, and even the mobile engineers who visit customers' sites are on strike, he added.

Fujitsu 'disappointed'

However, Fujitsu is able to provide "complete cover for everything at the moment", as it has contingency plans in place, said company spokesman Graham Goulden.

"Nothing would be happening that would be affecting our customers," Goulden said.

Fujitsu is disappointed that the Unite strike is going ahead, but "pleased" to have reached an agreement with PCS, the company said in a statement.

In the newly agreed deal with the PCS, Fujitsu doubled its original offer of £500,000 in rises, which translates to an 11-percent increase for the lowest-paid members.

"This is a major deal for these private sector workers, particularly the lowest paid, who do essential work supporting our public services," PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said in a statement on Friday. "This shows clearly what can be achieved when working people stand together, and that the private sector is far from a no-go area for unions like ours."

Action on Monday by PCS workers would have hit support for government contracts, as the union has 720 members working on public sector projects across the UK.

Although the PCS called off its action, it is providing support for striking Unite members. At least one PCS member joined Unite members on the Crewe picket line on Monday morning, according to Janney.

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