Updates on Pay
Earlier this week, our Manchester group reported the company’s continued refusal to honour their pay agreement. This means that UNITE can continue campaigning against the pay freeze on a national basis.
The UK Consultative Forum (UKCF) Pay and Benefits subgroup has published its May 2009 report.
UNITE is working with the members of the ICL Pension Members’ Committee (IPMC) to scrutinise the company’s proposal to close the ICL Defined Benefit pension scheme.
UNITE and the IPMC are working together on communications to members of the pension plan to deal with the technical aspects of the consultation process, so that messages are as consistent and accurate as possible. The first of these communications should be issued in the next week or so.
It is important to stress that the company proposal is just that – a proposal. We must aim to get the company to withdraw or change it. We have some time to do this – even if the proposal went ahead unchanged, nobody would be affected until at least mid-November.
The company has not provided a convincing explanation of the reasoning behind the proposal. The material provided lacked detail and included significant mistakes. It appeared more like a hastily concocted justification for a proposal, rather than the product of a careful analysis of the state of the pension fund.
It is interesting to note that the three-yearly actuarial valuation of the pension fund began on 31st March and that the company proposes to finalise the changes long before the valuation is complete.
The impression that the proposal is a hasty attempt to take advantage of the current economic situation is reinforced by an article Richard Christou wrote on pensions just last year that “I personally believe that a snapshot on a single day, based on clearly defined criteria, is not the best way to analyse your liabilities” and that “there is no need for nightmares”.
Whatever the reasons for the proposal, there can be no doubt how serious it would be for pension scheme members. A reasonable estimate is that the proposal is roughly equivalent to a 20% pay cut (or about £6000 a year for someone on a £30K salary). The costs to the company of continuing to provide the current benefits through the ICL DB pension scheme are probably far less.
[This estimate is based on the figures from 2008 pension choices to assess how much extra pay an employee moving from the ICL DB scheme to the Fujitsu UK scheme would need to buy back the equivalent pension provision. The actual figure would vary with age and other factors.]
How would you react if the company proposed a 20% pay cut?
Enough Is Enough
Fujitsu appears to be going on the rampage, trying to take advantage of the recession to ram through changes to inflate profits at our expense. The pay freeze and the attack on pensions are (so far) the biggest of these attacks, which seem to be coming month after month.
Fujitsu tries to claim that it is responding to competitive pressure. In reality, Fujitsu is leading the way in attacking its workforce. Another profitable major IT company said it had decided on a pay freeze in response to Fujitsu announcing ours. As the Financial Times reports, Fujitsu is the first major company in nearly two years to try to close its defined benefit pension scheme. If we let Fujitsu get away with this, others will follow suit and the company will be back demanding more “competitive” cuts in our pay and conditions. This “race to the bottom” has to stop.
While Fujitsu’s profits have been high, the company is worried about a reduced “win rate” on new bids. But the fall in win-rate is not caused by a sudden surge in employee costs. In reality, the “cure” the company proposes – freezing pay and slashing benefits – is likely to make the problem worse. Is our win rate likely to go up if morale plummets and a significant layer of experienced staff at all levels of the company decide to leave? We have to protect the company by preventing bad senior management decisions doing further damage.
We have to say “enough is enough”.
UNITE reps and officers have been discussing how we can counter the company’s attacks on our pay and conditions.
In parallel with consultation and negotiations, we will clearly need an effective campaign to persuade the company to change its approach.
The issues we face are big. No individual can hope to shift the company on pay or pensions on their own. A national campaign involving staff across the UK has a better chance of success than any site on its own. UNITE also continues to work closely with our colleagues in the PCS union.
Different people are affected by the attacks in different ways, so a campaign addressing the pay and pension issues seems most likely to unite the workforce and apply enough pressure to win.
Whatever tactics are used during the campaign, whether they are based on the law, publicity or industrial action, they will require coordination for maximum effect. That requires organisation. Union organisation.
The current intention is that during the pension consultation period, UNITE will conduct a consultative ballot of its members across the UK, to gauge support for industrial action to stop the company’s attacks. If the ballot showed widespread support for action, but members felt that the issues were not satisfactorily resolved, a formal ballot on industrial action would be held around the end of the pension consultation period.
The consultative ballot could send a powerful message to the company about the level of opposition to their attacks, and maximise the chances of resolving the issues without the need for industrial action.
By law, only union members can vote in industrial action ballots. To send the strongest possible message to the company in the consultative ballot, we need as many people as possible to join the union in time to vote. A number of members forwarded our initial notice to colleagues, in many cases with very powerful heartfelt personal comments about the situation. This has contributed to many more employees joining the union, but we are still just scratching the surface. Time is of the essence. Who can you ask to join? To state the obvious, if every member recruited one colleague, membership would double.
The union’s strength and effectiveness doesn’t just depend on the size of its membership – the level of involvement of members is crucial too – see below for some ideas for steps every member can take to make a difference.
To run a national campaign we need as many reps, contacts and activists as possible, across all the sites. This provides a channel for members to get guidance and to feed in their views, as well as being vital for the campaign itself – distributing information and getting other employees involved.
What you can do
* UNITE is looking at the feasibility of running a weekend training and campaign planning event for all members in Fujitsu who want to get involved in the campaign. Please get in touch if you would be willing to contribute your time if the union covered the costs.
* Can you volunteer to be a union rep or contact for your location?
* Can you talk to a colleague about the issues?
* Can you pass on this email to a few colleagues who might be interested (see below)?
* Can you ask a colleague to join the union?
Updates on Pay