Manchester: 3 days to ballot

Ballot papers for industrial action will be posted out to UNITE members in scope of the Manchester Recognition Agreement on Thursday 4th August 2011 – 3 days to go. UNITE is asking all members to vote YES+YES. in the ballot.
Today’s notice explains some of the issues in dispute, reinforcing why a big YES+YES vote is so vital.
If you have any questions about the issues or the campaign, or you want to help organise the campaign, don’t forget tomorrow’s Dispute Committee meeting which is open to all members:
12:30pm, Tuesday 2nd August, 34GCR2
In summary, the dispute is about a breakdown in industrial relations, company union-busting and breaches of agreements. Fujitsu is breaking agreements in relation to redundancy and redeployment, pay, pensions, out of hours working, consultation before decisions are taken, negotiation without the company imposing outcomes first (whether for individual or collective issues), as well as victimising reps in Manchester and elsewhere.
Details are below of how we need a change of course from Fujitsu to avoid a situation where:

  • far more people are likely to be made compulsorily redundant in future
  • pay and benefits will become even less fair
  • we will have no say over the trustees who oversee our pensions, and will allow the company to attack FJUK pension benefits more easily by dividing the workforce
  • we face a “race to the bottom” in terms and conditions
  • employees will have no real say over how they are treated at work
  • employees will be unable to resolve issues with the company through negotiation
  • people will become less confident to get involved and we will not have the standard of representation we need

The time to stop this is now.
Redundancy and Redeployment
We have two key agreements on redundancy and redeployment. Annex 1 covers everyone in the Manchester bargaining unit. The Security of Employment Agreement (SEA) covers a significant number of people inside and outside the bargaining unit, typically those who joined the company before 1st January 2000.
Annex 1 has been a tremendous success. Since it was introduced, despite many job losses, not a single person covered by it has been forced out of the company through redundancy without their agreement.
Both agreements are under attack, threatening all our job security. Even after the problems were drawn to their attention, there are now cases where the company:

  1. Took people’s jobs off them without giving them a Redeployment Priority Period (RPP), breaking Annex 1 section 5.1
  2. Rushed into redundancy selection, rather than offering redeployment first, breaking Annex 1 section 5.5.1
  3. Refused to start formal redundancy consultation, breaking Annex 1 section 6.1
  4. Failed to consider, let alone take, the agreed measures to avoid redundancies or reduce their numbers, breaking Annex 1 section 6.1.1
  5. Failed to make any attempt to agree a process to seek volunteers, breaking Annex 1 section 6.1.2.
  6. Turned down volunteers on grounds which break Annex 1 section 6.1.2 and SEA section 1.2
  7. Failed to try to agree selection criteria with UNITE, breaking Annex 1 section 6.1.2.1
  8. Failed to review the selection with UNITE, breaking Annex 1 section 6.1.4

Unless we stop such breaches of our agreements, far more people are likely to be made compulsorily redundant in future.
Just as serious is the specific form that one of these breaches has taken in relation to rejecting volunteers. One reason given, which falls outside the criteria in both Annex 1 and the SEA, is the cost of the redundancy package. Had this been used in Project Cherry, this would have resulted in vastly more compulsory redundancies.
Pay
Last year, UNITE’s analysis showed that the company paid about 200 people (around a quarter of those in the bargaining unit) less than they were contractually entitled to under the Manchester Pay And Benefits Agreement (MPABA) – with the shortfall running into tens of thousands of pounds.
The company refused to do anything about this until UNITE helped thirteen people mount legal challenges. All these individuals had their cases settled in full, with back pay.
UNITE also had to mount a legal challenge via the CAC to force disclosure of pay and benefit comparator information. To avoid this being necessary again, the company agreed to introduce an “Appendix 4” to the agreement, setting out what information should be provided. A draft was agreed in January, yet the company never signed it and hasn’t stuck to it, forcing UNITE to lodge yet another CAC claim in 2011.
The unnecessary problems with information disclosure contributed to a situation where people have little confidence that the matrices in this year’s pay deal will actually deliver the pay rises the company claims – making it more likely that further action will be needed to enforce our agreement.
Other areas of the 2010 MPABA that the company has broken include:

  1. Putting D1-D4 and Rise+ levels onto the HR Database so that employees can see what level they are on via Self Service (MPABA section 3)
  2. Completing appraisals in time for them to used for the pay review (MPABA section 8)
  3. Establishing an appeal process for role code changes (MPABA section 9)
  4. Implementing a mechanism to ensure people promoted have agreed plans on reward and development (MPABA section 11)
  5. Reviews for company car anomalies (MPABA section 13)
  6. Providing UNITE with adequate information to monitor pay and benefit outcomes (MPABA section 15)

Unless we stop such breaches of agreements, pay and benefits will become even less fair.
Pensions
The company is breaking the national agreement reached through ACAS in February 2010, in which Fujitsu promised:

“n) the company will set up a consultative body with which regular discussions can take place on pension arrangements relating to the FJUK plan – this would include representatives from Unite;”

No such body has been set up, and the company is taking no action to do so. This deprives FJUK members of any way of having a democratic say in the selection of our Member Nominated Trustees. Instead the company appoints the majority of the trustees and the trustees themselves carry out the selection. This undermines this important mechanism introduced in legislation to help members keep an eye on their pension funds.
The national ACAS agreement also said:

“l) the company confirms that the terms of its Defined Contribution pension schemes are a contractual entitlement for those existing and new employees who are members of such schemes;”

The 2010 Manchester Pay And Benefits Agreement expanded on this for the Manchester bargaining unit:

“The terms of the Company’s Defined Contribution pension schemes are a contractual entitlement for those existing and new employees who are members of such schemes. Wording based on the contractual variation letter used for former members of the ICL DB Pension Plan will be incorporated into this agreement.”

“By 1st October 2010 the Company and UNITE will set up a joint “implementation group” comprising the 2010 pay negotiating teams whose functions will include:

c. Incorporation into this agreement relevant points arising from the national ACAS agreement of 26th February 2010”

UNITE (with the benefit of legal advice) helped the company to produce the wording for a “contractual variation” letter used for people switching from the ICL DB to FJUK pension plan.
The Joint Implementation Group agreed action 32 on UNITE to “propose wording and timing” to implement these parts of the agreement, which UNITE did on 20th April 2011. The company stalled for months before recently saying it will not implement them at all.
The result of these breaches of our agreements is that a few thousand members have proper detailed wording in their contracts of employment to protect their pensions. The majority of staff just have a bland statement that the terms are contractual, which is of dubious value.
In reality, this breach of our agreements is extremely bad news for all employees:

  • FJUK members who were never in the ICL DB plan risk the company facing fewer hurdles to downgrading their pensions
  • The number of FJUK members who were previously in the ICL DB plan and therefore have strong contractual protection will dwindle over time. The company could try to cut FJUK pension benefits by dismissing and re-engaging this group, rather than the whole workforce.

Unless we stop such breaches of agreements, we will have no say over the trustees who oversee our pensions, and we will allow the company to attack FJUK pension benefits more easily by dividing the workforce.
Out of Hours Working
Section 8.2 of our Recognition Agreement says:

“The Company agrees that it will inform the Union before any alteration to Terms and Conditions of Employment (including proposed Terms & Conditions for new hires or internal job changes) or working practices which would affect Employees in the Bargaining Unit. The Company will then consult the Union and seek to resolve any consequent issues through the negotiating procedure outlined in this Recognition Agreement before the proposed changes are implemented.”

It was because such consultation had never taken place that a collective grievance on behalf of a sizeable group of Manchester staff in what is now Data Centre Managed Services (DCMS) resulted in many staff being restored to the Unsocial Hours Policy (UHP) in 2005.
IN 2007 UNITE engaged in discussions with the company alongside PCS and the UKCF about Out Of Hours harmonisation. The company ended this process part way through, but introduced a horrible new policy called the “IS Interim Guidelines”. The company agreed not to use this in the Manchester bargaining unit, and did not even start consultation about doing so.
UNITE has now caught the company using a rebadged version of the same policy, now called the UK Interim Additional Hours Guidelines in the bargaining unit, without having consulted at all. The company has also imposed detrimental changes to Out Of Hours payments in some areas without consultation, and continued to do so even after grievances have been raised.
Unless we stop such breaches of agreements, we face a “race to the bottom” in terms and conditions.
Consultation before decisions are taken
The section above on Out Of Hours includes some examples of this breach of our Recognition Agreement. There are many more, such as the removal of pre-retirement wind-down and the Majority Club, or changes to sickness absence management.
Unless we stop such breaches of agreements, employees will have no real say over how they are treated at work.
Negotiation without the company imposing outcomes first
When the company consults properly, most issues can be resolved informally. But when they don’t, or if an issue proves meaty enough for either the company or UNITE to place it into the formal negotiating procedure, the Recognition Agreement requires both parties to focus on the negotiations rather than trying to impose an outcome while negotiations are ongoing.
This applies for individual issues, where the agreement says:

9.6 The Company and the Union agree to refrain from taking any other action in relation to the contested issues until the individual grievance procedure outlined in this section of this Recognition Agreement has been exhausted (unless the action is required by law or has to be taken before the procedure is exhausted to avoid missing a legal deadline). In other words, the pre-existing circumstances will continue to apply.

It also applies for collective issues:

10.1 Negotiation and Collective Bargaining constitute a requirement for the Company to seek agreement with the Union prior to decisions on matters for collective negotiation being finalised. The Company and the Union agree to refrain from taking any other action in relation to the contested issues until the procedure outlined in this Recognition Agreement has been exhausted (unless the action is required by law or has to be taken before the procedure is exhausted to avoid missing a legal deadline). In other words, the pre-existing circumstances will continue to apply.

There are examples of both individual and collective issues where the company is ignoring this basic principle of good-faith negotiation, and imposing outcomes without making any serious attempt to reach agreement. This is a significant reason for issues escalating.
Unless we stop such breaches of agreements, employees will be unable to resolve issues with the company through negotiation.
Victimising reps in Manchester and elsewhere
UNITE has successfully fended off many attempts to pick on reps in Fujitsu. In Manchester we have seen attempts to discipline Ian Allinson and Phil Tepper, reps such as Pauline Bradburn and Jay Lieberman being prevented from working by the management team, and attempts to “persuade” reps to leave the company.
There have also been straightforward breaches of our Recognition Agreement when it comes to the treatment of reps:

6.8 The Company will ensure that representatives neither benefit nor suffer detriment (including pay, benefits other contractual terms, promotion and progression) when compared with typical colleagues in similar roles who do not hold such positions, unless for a reason unrelated to their representative role.

6.9 Objectives, appraisals, bonuses, incentive payments etc for representatives will not take account of the quality of work done as a representative (members are responsible for assessing this at election time), but will make allowance for the time reasonably required to perform their duties.

6.10 The Company will ensure that “utilisation” and similar calculations which are used to evaluate the contribution of individuals and teams treat reps time as unavailable rather than unutilised.

6.11 Time for Union duties and activities will be centrally accounted for, to avoid unfair pressure on particular teams and departments.

The Company refuses to implement the commitments on utilisation or central accounting, thus ensuring that line managers are incentivised to “discourage” reps from working on behalf of members.
Most starkly, we have had the recent dismissal of Alan Jenney, who was both a UNITE rep in Crewe, and the Deputy Chair of the union’s Combine Committee across Fujitsu in the UK. The outrageous handling of Alan’s case reinforces the view that the primary reason for his dismissal was his union role rather than a genuine redundancy.
If the company gets away with sacking Alan – who will be next?
Unless we stop such treatment of our reps, people will become less confident to get involved and we will not have the standard of representation we need.

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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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