Q&A on Industrial Action for Jobs, Pay & Pensions

Our newsletter on 2nd November covered many of the common questions about industrial action. Today’s newsletter deals with many of those that reps are still being asked:

What action had been called?

You can read the notice of action online.

What do “continuous” and “discontinuous” mean?

The action short of strike is “continuous”, which means that it goes on from Thursday 12th November until we stop it.
The strike action is “discontinuous”, which means that we only strike on the dates specified (Thursday 12th, Friday 13th and Monday 16th November).

What times are the action?

The strikes are all day, which means that we shouldn’t do any work from midnight to midnight. This applies to all work, whether it is your normal shift, overtime, standby or call-out.
The strike dates specified do not include the weekend, though the weekend is covered by the call for action short of strike.

Do I have to tell my manager whether I’m striking?

UNITE served the notice to the company about the action, fulfilling the legal requirement. Managers are scurrying around trying to find out who intends to strike so that they can minimise the impact of the action. You are under no obligation to tell them in advance unless you want to.

Who can legally take part in industrial action?

If UNITE called national action on the basis of our recent ballot, anyone “employed by Fujitsu Services Limited in the UK and not posted overseas” would have the same legal protection for taking part, regardless of whether or not they are a UNITE member, whether or not they are covered by union recognition, whether or not they personally voted for action.
Employees of other companies (e.g. agency staff, subcontractors) would not enjoy the same legal protection.

If I strike won’t it just mean I have more work to do afterwards?

No. A major purpose of the action short of strike is to change overwork from being our problem into the company’s problem. The company has withdrawn goodwill from employees, so we are adopting a policy of non-cooperation, working to rule and working to contract. We should do what we have to, not what is needed to meet the company’s unrealistic targets. There is no point striking one day and working hours of unpaid overtime the next to catch up. Let the job slip until the dispute is settled.

Is this a ban on overtime?

No. The aim is to put pressure on the company, not on ourselves. Overtime is banned unless it is paid at at least Unsocial Hours Policy (UHP) rates. UNITE will be issuing a model letter that you can send to your manager asking whether they agree to pay you at the higher rate or to not do the overtime. This would include overtime worked when on-call or on standby.
If you’re not sure whether you would get more, you can read the UHP online, and download a copy of the UHP claim form (though note that this version has lower standby rates than the UHP).

I’m being asked to do something different to normal in order to reduce the impact of the strike. What do I do?

The action short of strike includes “policy of non-cooperation” which should cover you for refusing to do things you don’t normally do, especially if they are intended to undermine the effectiveness of the industrial action.

Picketing

Picketing means being outside a workplace, trying to persuade others not to go in to work. It’s normal to use placards and leaflets to communicate with people, as well as trying to speak to them directly. We want all our picket lines to be friendly and good humoured.
The law allows peaceful picketing by workers at their own place of work. Different rules apply to members who don’t have a regular place of work, normally work from a variety of workplaces, are mobile, or for whom it is impractical to picket at their place of work because of its location. These workers may picket any place from which they work or from which their work is administered. Union officers (which includes reps as well as full-time union officials) can accompany a member they represent who is picketing their place of work.
There is no right to picket on private property, but sometimes the owner will allow this, for example if it is more convenient, less disruptive or safer.
There should be a responsible person in charge of each picket line. It’s a good idea for these people (sometimes called “picket captains”) to have lists of mobile numbers to keep in touch.
Pickets can lawfully ask people who are not Fujitsu employees not to cross, but if those people take part in industrial action they would not be covered by the same legal protection.

Dispute Benefit and Hardship Payments

UNITE provides Dispute Benefit of £30 a day to members who are on official strike. To administer this, your reps will need you to confirm that you were on strike for each strike day.
Your Combine Committee has also organised a fund to provide extra financial support if we take industrial action. Members will be able to apply for “Hardship Payments” if their financial situation means they would otherwise be unable to take part in the action. As the money for this is being raised by members, Hardship Payments will only be available to members who play an active part in the campaign. This means it will be important to ensure your name is recorded on a register when you take part in picketing or other campaign activities. Reps will ensure that there are activities which everyone can take part in.

Annual Leave

Where the union calls on employees to take strike action, the action is made more effective the more people who strike.
However, given the time of year, some employees will be under pressure to use up their annual leave entitlement before the end of the year, or risk losing it.
If employees take annual leave on strike days, they are encouraged to make a donation to the dispute fund. Members are only entitled to UNITE Dispute Benefit if striking, rather than taking annual leave.

My Contract Says X – Can I Take Action?

The whole point of going through the long and complex process of a ballot is so that employees can benefit from legal protection if they refuse to work as normal, which can technically mean breaking your contract. UNITE will only call action which is lawful.
Of course there are many instances elsewhere of employees taking industrial action which does not benefit from legal protection. Even under those circumstances, as long as people stick together, there are rarely any negative consequences for those involved.

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Unite members across Fujitsu Services Limited in the UK are taking industrial as part of their dispute over jobs, union recognition, pay and pensions. Action from 28 February has included strikes and ongoing action short of strike. Further strikes have been called for 22, 25, 26 May.

This follows the recent resolution of a local dispute in Manchester which included 12 strike days.

Further information is available here including events, pickets, a downloadable appeal for support leaflet and how to donate to our strike fund.

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