Manchester ballot opens TOMORROW

Ballot papers for industrial action will be posted out to UNITE members in scope of the Manchester Recognition Agreement on Thursday 4th August 2011 – TOMORROW. UNITE is asking all members to vote YES+YES in the ballot.
Monday’s notice looked at the main issues in dispute. Today’s notice contains a Q&A about industrial action, reinforcing why a big YES+YES vote is so vital.

What will the questions on the ballot paper be?

The wording of the questions is dictated by legislation. They will be: “Are you prepared to take part in strike action?” and “Are you prepared to take part in industrial action short of strike?”

Why are there two questions? Can I vote yes to one and not the other?

The format of the questions is dictated by legislation. You can vote how you wish, but UNITE is urging members to vote YES+YES. Without a YES vote on both questions, your reps do not believe the campaign will be successful. The higher the YES+YES vote the more likely the company is to back off.

Who is included in the ballot?

All UNITE members employed by Fujitsu Services Limited who are in scope of the Manchester Recognition Agreement. However, members who are not expected to be in work (e.g. long term sick, maternity leave) throughout the period during which any industrial action would take place must be excluded.

Why can’t non-union members vote?

By law, a union can only ballot members. However, unions can call on non-members to take part in industrial action. Non-members don’t get financial and other support from the union during a dispute.

Will I be able to vote by email or internet?

No. This is a formal legal process. UNITE uses an independent body to run industrial action ballots, which are postal.

If there is a YES+YES vote, what action does UNITE intend to call?

UNITE will not call any action which has not been agreed at a members’ meeting, and no decision has been taken at this stage. A YES+YES vote on both questions allows members flexibility in the campaign and the maximum legal protection during the dispute. A further members’ meeting will be arranged to decide a range of activities and action.

Is the ballot secret?

Yes. No record is kept of who is sent which ballot paper. The ballot is run and counted by an independent organisation. Ballot papers have serial numbers to assist them in detecting fraud.

Are you breaking your contract if you take industrial action?

Technically, you may be, but the law protects your right to do so. The ballot paper must, by law, include the following statements:

“If you take part in a strike or other industrial action, you may be in breach of your contract of employment.”

“However, if you are dismissed for taking part in strike or other industrial action which is called officially and is otherwise lawful, the dismissal will be unfair if it takes place fewer than twelve weeks after you started taking part in the action, and depending on the circumstances may be unfair if it takes place later”

There is also legal protection against discrimination for union membership or taking part in union activities.

If I go on strike, do I get paid?

Employers don’t usually pay workers for strike days, but sometimes payment is agreed as part of a settlement. If we have to go on strike, UNITE intends to seek payment for strike days as part of the eventual deal.

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 reps have also organised a fund to provide extra financial support if we take industrial action. During a dispute, it is possible to raise large amounts of money from other trade unionists, the local community, friends and family. During previous strikes in Fujitsu, strikers raised tens of thousands of pounds, allowing the union to provide additional financial support, so that no member who wanted to take part was unable to do so for financial reasons. We have already started raising funds for the campaign. Can you take our collection sheet round your friends and family, like you would for a sponsored swim? There’s also a (frequently updated) “appeal for support” leaflet which explains what it’s all about.

Members will be able to apply for additional 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.

What are we trying to achieve?

Monday’s newsletter went through the main issues in dispute. 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.

We want a new Fujitsu approach to industrial relations within which they honour their agreements. We also want Fujitsu to address the issues rather than picking on the reps who raise them on our behalf. As part of that we want an agreed resolution for victimised UNITE rep Alan Jenney.

Can we win?

Yes. What we’re campaigning for is little more than good management. Far from bankrupting Fujitsu it would make the company more successful by reducing time-wasting and improving morale, the company’s reputation and the quality of management decisions.

We need a big YES+YES vote to put the pressure on Fujitsu, but UNITE isn’t planning to rely heavily on industrial action to bring the dispute to a conclusion. We also need to look at other forms of leverage. For example, Fujitsu is trying to rebalance its business to have a greater private sector share, which means winning contracts with more organisations where UNITE has members and influence.

We brought a similar dispute in 2006-7 when the company sought to gradually derecognise the union and break the Security of Employment Agreement (SEA) to a successful conclusion. UNITE is far stronger now than then.

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Unite members across Fujitsu Services Limited in the UK have been taking industrial as part of their dispute over jobs, union recognition, pay and pensions. Action from 28 February has included 15 days of strikes and ongoing action short of strike.

INDUSTRIAL ACTION IS CURRENTLY SUSPENDED while members consider an offer from Fujitsu.

The national dispute follows the 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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