Manchester: Breakdown in Industrial Relations

A series of serious breaches of the Manchester agreements and attacks on individual reps leave us in a very serious situation.
Kevin O’Gallagher, UNITE’s National Officer for IT & Communications, lodged the following collective grievance on behalf of the Manchester bargaining unit:

9th June 2011
To: Ella Bennett (HR Director)
CC: Ellie Sims, David Stevens, Terry Thompson, Ian Allinson
Breakdown in Industrial Relations
The UNITE Fujitsu Manchester workplace reps have asked me to write to you to place a serious breakdown in industrial relations into our formal procedure for resolving collective issues as set out in section 10 of the Recognition Agreement.
Given that many of the points we wish to discuss relate to breaches of our agreements, we believe it would be appropriate for this to be dealt with immediately at stage 3 of the procedure. This would also have the advantage of allowing both parties to benefit from the expert assistance of ACAS in a conciliation role.
The company appears to be attempting to rapidly worsen the treatment of employees in a wide variety of ways. In doing so, it has ceased any genuine attempt at constructive engagement with UNITE. Instead the company is breaking agreements, attacking our representatives and turning every issue into a confrontation. We do not believe this form of outdated 1980s industrial relations is in the best interests of the company or its employees.
By way of examples:
1. The company showed no interest in correcting the under-payment of employees under the 2010 Manchester Pay And Benefits Agreement until employees lodged Employment Tribunal claims.
2. The company plans to scrap the Majority Club and the pre-retirement wind-down, yet has not consulted UNITE about this at all.
3. The company refused to adhere to the status quo in respect of the grievance over Out Of Hours payments for the WINTEL support team, whose payments were cut without consultation.
4. Though the company worked to redeploy staff off DWP, with considerable success, it refused to follow the Annex 1 process and tried to conceal what was going on from UNITE.
5. The company has not even bothered to inform UNITE that it has decided to break the commitment to set up a consultation body for the FJUK pension plan. This commitment was included in the ACAS agreement with UNITE of February 2010, was discussed during pension consultation, and was included in correspondence which the company confirmed ICL DB members could rely on in deciding whether to accept the contractual variation.
6. The company put two individuals at risk of redundancy, in order to cut one job. One of the individuals at risk was in the Manchester bargaining unit, yet the company refused to follow the Annex 1 agreement. Having failed to follow the agreed process, the company then singled out Alan Jenney, deputy chair of the UNITE Fujitsu UK Combine Committee, for redundancy, without making any genuine effort at redeployment.
7. The company has persistently delayed finalising updates to the Manchester Pay And Benefits Agreement, even where these were agreed last year. Failure to stick to agreed timescales or provide information has again this year forced UNITE to use external legal routes to try to ensure employees get a good pay deal on time.
8. The company is denying assignments to UNITE rep and Combine Committee member Jay Lieberman. Assignments are made available to others but not Jay, in breach of the Recognition Agreement. The company fails to implement reasonable adjustments for his disability, even when recommended by Occupational Health. Managers have failed to put his name forward for assignments he has expressed interest in. Unspecified feedback is used to justify denying Jay work. He is threatened with bogus Capability procedures in an attempt to pressure him into accepting a financial package to leave the company.
9. The company has failed to progress the negotiations on facility time for UNITE representatives, which were set up as a result of UNITE’s collective grievance raised on 2nd July 2010. Instead of resolving the issue collectively, the company keeps trying, in breach of the agreed procedures, to apply individual pressure to our Senior Rep, Ian Allinson, to reduce the time he spends working on behalf of employees.
Overall, it appears that the company is trying to prevent employees having a say about changes that affect them. In particular, there appears to be a systematic attempt to prevent UNITE representatives carrying out their functions properly.
We do not expect the process of this collective grievance to resolve all the examples raised above, or the many others we could have listed. We are looking for a renewed commitment from the company to constructive industrial relations, with any issue resolved promptly through agreed procedures. We believe it is this approach, combined with adherence to agreements and near-perfect execution, which can build trust between the company and its employees.
In line with section 10.5 of our agreement, please contact me to discuss who has decision-making power over this issue in order to determine who is the appropriate manager to hear this grievance, so that it has the best possible chance of being resolved quickly.
In the meantime, may I remind you that under section 10.1 of our agreement, the company must refrain from taking any other action in relation to the contested issues. In particular, the company should immediately cease activities such as:
• worsening the terms, conditions or working practices of employees without consultation
• failing to engage with UNITE in a timely manner to resolve issues raised by the company or employees
• failing to implement commitments made
• implementing detrimental changes against the expressed wishes of employees without exhausting the agreed grievance procedures, in violation of that status quo principle
• taking away employees’ jobs while denying them the protection assistance of the agreed Annex 1 procedures
• depriving UNITE representatives of assignments
• proposing to dismiss UNITE representatives as redundant without making genuine efforts at redeployment
• threatening UNITE representatives with unjustified Conduct or Capability action
• giving reps additional duties, cutting their union time, or organising individual meetings with them to discuss doing so – as already required under the outstanding grievance of 2nd July 2010.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kevin O’Gallagher
UNITE National Officer
IT & Communications Sector

The company has agreed to stage 3 talks with ACAS on Tuesday 28th June. The big question is what members want to do if agreement isn’t reached and the procedure is exhausted.
If you haven’t already done so, please respond to the membership check email sent on Sunday 19th June.

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Unite members across Fujitsu Services Limited in the UK are fighting over job security, for union recognition, against victimisation of reps, and over pay and pensions. Members nationally took industrial from 28 February including 15 days of strikes and ongoing action short of strike, after 12 days of local strikes in Manchester.

INDUSTRIAL ACTION IS CURRENTLY SUSPENDED but members have voted by 92% to reject a company offer.

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