UNITE continues to explore a range of formal and informal avenues to try to find a resolution to the dispute. This is the latest letter from Kevin O’Gallagher, UNITE’s National Officer for IT & Communications, to Duncan Tait, the Chief Executive Officer of Fujitsu UK & Ireland:
Thank you for your prompt responses to my email of 7th July. In the last of these you encouraged UNITE to engage with the company team in the hope that we can work together in the future in a more constructive manner. We followed your advice and have continued to try to engage with the HR team put forward by the company for these discussions, but this has unfortunately not produced an agreed way forward of any substance to date.
We realise how important it is for Fujitsu to rebalance its business by winning more business from the private sector. This will mean that the relationship with UNITE will be significantly more important for Fujitsu, given that UNITE has membership and influence within the major private sector companies from which Fujitsu needs to win business. Fujitsu’s relationship with UNITE, whether positive or negative, will certainly have an impact on the company’s success in winning contracts.
Unite members employed in the affected areas of the business felt that their only practical option to bring this matter to an acceptable conclusion was to show the level of discontent with the current situation through an industrial action ballot. The result of this is as I am sure you are aware that there is substantial support both for action short of a strike as well as strike action.
We will be meeting again with the company representatives on Tuesday the 6th September where we are still intending to try to reach a resolution to the outstanding issues, however, if this is not the outcome then Unite will be left with no alternative but to call upon our members to take action in pursuance of their claims for Fujitsu to act in accordance with agreements reached as well as good industrial relations practices.
If action is called, this means an increased focus on Fujitsu from UNITE, and we would prefer to be using our influence to help the business rather than see the company’s poor industrial relations having a negative impact on it. Someone in your position has to rely on subordinates to a considerable extent, and therefore when your HR team reassures you that they have matters in hand, it is only natural that your default position will be to take that on trust. Unfortunately, there appear to be discrepancies between what your HR team is telling you and what they are telling us.
In relation to Alan Jenney’s case, for example, your HR team reassured you that “all the Company processes and policies are being followed” while acknowledging to me that the company had broken the relevant agreements. The breaches were not accidents, but carried out despite UNITE reps trying to assist management by pointing out what needed to be done at the time.
I raise this example to illustrate a wider point. In many organisations the HR department takes the lead on employee relations, but their business managers are often more involved than Fujitsu’s. In organisations that take Fujitsu’s approach, there is always a risk that the HR function encourages poor industrial relations to enhance the importance of its own role, whereas business managers, who have to suffer the consequences of poor industrial relations, tend to take a more people-centric, pragmatic and cost effective approach with a keen eye on the company’s profitability.
With major changes in the industry and within Fujitsu itself, the company is at a turning point. Employees would prefer to work for a successful organisation, and to contribute to that success. But as Rod Vawdrey’s summary to employees of their responses to the Shaping Tomorrow survey put it “you are committed to Fujitsu, but not enough of you are willing to put in the extra effort which is needed for us to become a truly world-class company, our customers’ first choice, and a great place to work”. Helping Fujitsu succeed by changing Fujitsu’s poor industrial relations is a priority for UNITE and its members. If the negotiations arranged for Tuesday are not successful, I urge you to take a more direct role in achieving this change. Continuing to leave it to the system as is will likely continue to deliver unchanging results.
UNITE National Officer
IT & Communications