Members of the ICL DB pension scheme should by now have seen the correspondence last week between the company on the one hand, and the IPMC and UNITE reps on the Pensions Forum on the other.
While the company has rejected the request to withdraw its proposal and the 90-day “section 188” warning that it intends to dismiss and re-engage the 4000 pension scheme members, their note makes interesting reading. In contrast to so many company communications about issues of concern to employees, the letter is very carefully-worded and has clearly been given a lot of thought by people high up in the company. This alone is an encouraging sign that the company has been shaken out of the arrogant complacency that led them to put forward the original proposal without any real justification.
Reps then asked the company to extend the “consultation” period beyond the minimum 90-days so that the process can be more constructive. The company has refused this request at present. This appears to confirm the view that the company is trying to create what they call a “burning platform”. This is where they make doing nothing (staying on the platform) seem so unattractive that people see any alternative (jumping in the sea) as more and more attractive.
The company used the “burning platform” tactic during the loss of the NHS contract, threatening to make staff redundant as a way of putting pressure on BT and CFH to secure last-minute contract extensions. If this assessment is correct, the company will try to create increasing panic among employees as we approach the end of the 90-days (mid-August) and then as we approach the end of people’s notice periods (from mid-November). If the tactic worked, employees and their reps would increasingly panic, offering larger and larger concessions to the company in the hope of avoiding their original proposal. The way to counter this tactic is to stick together, keep calm and keep building up the campaign.
The new national leaflet for the pay and pensions campaign has begun to be distributed across the country. If it hasn’t yet gone out at your site please get in touch to help with distribution.
While the Sharing In Success (SiS) bonus scheme covering most employees has only paid out 2%, a lot of people are commenting on the relatively large bonuses the company is paying to many more senior staff. Does the company seriously imagine these staff are foolish enough to be distracted from pay and pensions by one-off bonuses?
Goals for the Campaign
Our last national email newsletter (24th June) reported that reps at the weekend school had agreed the following campaign aims:
1. A fairer pay system
2. More money for employees
3. Defend the ICL DB pension scheme
4. Improve pension provision for those with something worse
It is really important for the campaign that we maintain unity between the 4000 in the ICL DB scheme and the rest of the workforce. Of course everyone has an interest in preventing the “dismiss and re-engage” forcing through big cuts in benefits for the 4000 – if the company gets away with it for this group, what’s to stop it doing the same for the rest? But the best way to achieve unity is to ensure that we all stand to gain directly from a successful outcome to our campaign. For this reason your reps are asking you to agree to make all four points “red lines” for any negotiations with the company. In other words, you would be instructing your reps not to recommend acceptance of any offer which did not cover all four points.
[NB: voting is now closed]
In order to run the campaign effectively, we need a democratic and accountable way to take decisions at national level. Members approved a proposal to set up a new “combine committee” structure and candidates were invited to come forward.
A number of members have already volunteered, but more are needed. The deadline for candidates is this Friday 3rd July. Please read the original notice for details and how to volunteer.
After the period for candidates to come forward has closed, elections will be organised.
While the slight softening of the company tone on pensions is welcome, there has been no movement on pay and (as yet) no substantive movement on pensions either. It is important we keep the pressure building up to ensure a successful outcome.
UNITE will be conducting a “Consultative Ballot” of its members in Fujitsu Services to gauge the level of support for industrial action as part of our pay and pensions campaign.
The current expectation is that consultative ballot papers will be posted to members’ home addresses on Monday 13th July and that the ballot would close and votes counted on Thursday 30th July.
The consultative ballot gives your reps and the company an indication of the strength of feeling. No industrial action will be called without a further (statutory) ballot. We all hope that agreement can be reached without the need to take action, but your reps believe that a big “YES+YES” vote with a high turnout is essential if our campaign is going to be successful.
You’ve Got the Power
There have been a number of examples recently of UNITE members standing up against powerful employers and achieving success:
- The Visteon workers occupied their workplaces (which were closed without notice) and forced Ford to fund large redundancy payments.
- The Bristol refuse workers who won a pay deal after threatening all-out strike.
- The members at Linamar who got their victimised convenor (senior rep) reinstated by voting for all-out strike.
- The members in construction at Lindsey Oil Refinery and elsewhere who won reinstatement and reversed redundancies by walking out
Each campaign is different and our own is different again, but these examples all show that where people stick together and stand up for themselves it is possible to win.
Fujitsu staff sometimes feel powerless compared to other groups of workers. But this is largely based on an illusion. The truth is that we provide critical services to a wide range of public and private sector organisations. Fujitsu boasts that we provide services that touch the lives of 99% of the UK population. If we didn’t keep those services running, it would quickly have a huge impact. Fujitsu staff have immense potential power.
But there is a big difference between potential power and actual power. For Fujitsu staff to have real power:
- We need to understand the potential power we have
- We need to be organised so that we can exert our power collectively
- We need to be prepared to use our power when necessary
The work you do talking to your workmates about the campaign, recruiting them into the union, making sure you have union meetings in your area and campaigning for a big YES vote in the consultative ballot is vital to ensuring we have the power to win.