More strikes on the way for HP

Dates have been set for two-day walkouts by IT contractors at the Department of Work and Pensions and elsewhere, in a dispute over pay and job security
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Up to 1,000 HP Enterprise Services employees are set to walk out in four days' worth of strikes, called in protest over a pay freeze and job losses.

The first two-day strike of engineers will be held on 29 and 30 March, and the second on 6 and 7 April, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) announced on Monday. The action is due to take place in Newcastle, Washington, Preston, Lytham St Annes and Norcross, and involves IT contractors working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Ministry of Defence and General Motors.

The strikes could still be called off, depending on the outcome of ongoing negotiations, PCS national officer Jim Hanson told ZDNet UK.

"It's possible that an agreement will be reached in fresh talks tomorrow. It depends what's on offer," said Hanson on Wednesday. "We have had talks before, and they've not been very fruitful."

HP said that it was "disappointed" that its staff had voted for strike action, but noted that it was still involved talks with PCS.

The dispute dates back to HP's takeover of IT services provider EDS and its staff in August 2008. Union members are unhappy that the business has seen 3,400 job losses across the UK with more planned, the PCS said. The services company also introduced a pay freeze last year.

Two previous strikes, held in January and earlier in March, have had affected on HP's ability to deliver IT services, especially at the DWP, said Hanson.

"They had the impact of disrupting IT services at DWP, affecting the central production of benefits giros," he said.

In addition, the earlier action hindered the department's ability to update its IT systems related to benefits fraud, according to Hanson. He also said the union believed that HP Enterprise Services had breached a number of service-level agreements with the government department because of the strike.

The company rejected this suggestion, saying that it had delivered as promised.

"HP has worked closely with the customers who might have been impacted by the PCS strike to ensure we met our service-level agreements," said an HP spokesperson. "Our delivery teams have been implementing successfully our contingency plans."

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