Q&A about industrial action

A – The Basics
A1) Who can legally take part in the industrial action?
Anyone employed by Fujitsu Services Limited can legally take part in the action called by UNITE if they either:

  • Have a contractual based location site code of CRE02, or
  • Are in scope of the Manchester Recognition Agreement.

The same legal protection for taking part applies regardless of whether or not they are a UNITE member, a member of another union, a member of no union, whether or not they personally voted for action.
Employees of other companies (e.g. agency staff, subcontractors) or Fujitsu employees contractually based elsewhere do not enjoy the same legal protection.
Anyone who believes they may be in scope of action called by PCS should seek further guidance.
A2) Can we win?
Yes. The company has tried to pick on reps before, and has tried to break many of our agreements before. We have often succeeded in defending our rights.
This dispute is easy to resolve – if we can push Fujitsu to apply some common sense.
We can’t afford to allow the company to pick off reps, otherwise it will undermine union organisation and employees’ ability to influence the company over any issue.
We can’t afford to allow the company to pick and choose whether they want to honour agreements. We have to draw a line.
Industrial action has some impact in itself. Strike action gets media coverage and allows staff to take part in campaign activities on a large scale, such as protesting to MPs and customers, or building support in the trade union movement and community. These activities can magnify the power of the industrial action itself.
Members in Manchester agreed the following strategy to win:

  1. Continuing to work for a negotiated settlement
  2. Using “leverage” pressure on the company, for example through the media, suppliers, partners, customers, potential customers, MPs and the public
  3. Seeking to coordinate action inside and outside Fujitsu
  4. Spreading the campaign within Fujitsu
  5. Sustaining our campaign by building support within the wider movement
  6. Industrial action, particularly where this supports the other elements of our strategy

A3) I didn’t vote for action – can I take part?
Yes. If you are in scope (see A1) your right to participate in lawful industrial action is unaffected by whether you voted in the ballot, which way you voted, whether you were a member at the time or whether you are a member now.
A union’s strength comes from democratic participation and solidarity. Whether or not you voted for action, a democratic decision has been taken and we will get a better outcome the more we stick together. If you are thinking of not taking part, please seek out your rep and discuss this – they may be able to allay your concerns.
Of course only members will benefit from the support of the union during the action in terms of Dispute Benefit, Hardship Payments etc, so anyone contemplating taking part would be well advised to join.
A4) Do I have to tell my manager whether I’m taking industrial action?
Not beforehand (as confirmed by the company’s own FAQ from the recent strike day at Crewe). UNITE has served notice of action on the company, which is the only notice legally required. Managers may scurry around trying to find out who intends to strike so that they can minimise the impact of the action, so even if someone didn’t plan to strike, it would be better not to say so in advance.
A5) Involvement
We have the best chance of a successful outcome if we don’t just rely on employees taking part in industrial action, but combine that with other forms of pressure. Our strategy is based on both industrial action and external pressure (MPs, customers, media etc). We also need activities to raise funds and support.
All this relies on involving as many people as possible (both inside and outside Fujitsu) in playing an active part in the campaign, whether that is picketing, fundraising, writing letters, wearing a sticker or whatever.
It’s not always practical for everyone to picket, and it may not always be the most effective use of time anyway. Strikers often organise a range of other activities to help the campaign, such as phoning people, letter writing, leaflet writing, leafleting other workplaces, collecting money, holding meetings, administering financial support, touring other workplaces and union branches to raise support or lobbying MPs.
There are ways for everyone to contribute to the success of the campaign.
A6) 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.
A7) Are you breaking your contract if you take industrial action?
Technically, you may be, but the law protects your right to do so. There is also legal protection against discrimination for union membership or taking part in union activities.
If you feel this is a moral issue as well as a legal one, it’s worth remembering that the only reason we’ve got this problem is that the company have failed to follow their own agreements – they’re breaking their commitments to us as employees.
A8) 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”, this should generally 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.
A9) Exemptions
There can be exceptional circumstances where a person or group taking industrial action could have undesirable consequences. This could range from causing safety problems to putting disproportionate pressure on particular members.
Your reps have put in place a process where staff or managers can apply for exemptions from particular parts of any industrial action. An exemption application form is available online.
Staff who are granted exemptions from strike action are normally expected to donate pay to the dispute fund to help support colleagues who are striking.
A10) Staff not Taking Action
There will undoubtedly be some staff who don’t heed any call for industrial action. It is important to remember that these people are not our enemies. They want employees to be treated fairly, and want reps to be able to do their jobs without fear. They may be too scared to join in, or they may be misinformed.
Rather than getting into confrontation with colleagues who don’t take industrial action, we should patiently explain the issues and their rights to them, try to give them confidence to overcome their fears, and even if they still won’t take part in the industrial action, try to find something they do feel able to do in support of the campaign. This might be wearing a sticker or making a donation to the campaign, for example.
The company is likely to try to create divisions between strikers and non-strikers. The real division is between the vast majority of loyal, hardworking employees and a tiny number of fat-cats at the top who want us to pay for their mistakes and greed, are breaking their promises and picking on a prominent UNITE rep who speaks up on our behalf.
A11) Afterwards
People often have fears about a dispute damaging relationships with workmates or management. This can happen, particularly if a dispute is long and bitter. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
When Fujitsu, UNITE and ACAS got together in early 2008 to review how things were going after the Manchester dispute the previous year, the meeting concluded “Overall relationship is significantly better for all parties than in the past” and “Both parties recognised the successes and achievements of the last year”. The deal at the end of the dispute helped establish a much healthier relationship than before.
While it can cause resentment if people who didn’t take part in a campaign share the benefits, most people accept that people make mistakes and often learn from them. For example, there are plenty of people involved in UNITE in Manchester now who weren’t involved in 2007.
A12) Decision-making
To run a dispute successfully, the members have to be in charge. Frequent members’ meetings are crucial to ensure that everyone has a say and knows what’s going on and why.
Because these are two local disputes, more decisions can be taken at members’ meetings and by the reps you elected.
The members are the union, and the members should remain in democratic control of the campaign at all times.
B – Striking
B1) What’s the difference between striking and picketing?
Striking means refusing to work. Picketing means being outside your normal place of work seeking to peacefully persuade other people not to enter.
B2) Picketing
Picketing means being outside a workplace, trying to persuade others not to go in to work. We want all our picket lines to be friendly and good humoured.
Picketing is important for two main reasons. Firstly, no matter how hard we’ve all being trying to communicate, some staff will not be fully aware of the issues or the action. Pickets can explain the situation to them and some will decide to join the strike. Secondly, a picket line encourages waverers to join the action because people know it is immoral to cross a picket line and because the sight of other people on strike raises their confidence. It’s normal to use placards and leaflets to communicate with people, as well as trying to speak to them directly.
In a dispute like ours, it would be particularly important to make picket lines friendly and fun, rather than hostile and scary. Some colleagues will go in to work because they are frightened to join the strike, even though they agree with what we are fighting for and may support the campaign in other ways. While we should argue with them to overcome their fear, these are potential allies, not our enemies. It was noticeable in previous strikes that the pickets were laughing together and having fun, while those who went into work generally looked guilty and miserable. Our workloads are often bad enough normally, never mind when many colleagues are on strike!
The best picket lines have hot food and drink, tables, chairs, music, flags, placards, banners and balloons.
Strikers need to decide when to picket for maximum impact. Some workplaces might choose to run 24-hour pickets. Others might picket from early morning until mid-morning, then go off for something to eat and to take part in other activities.
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. Other people can join protests, but not picket.
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.
B3) What times do strikes start and finish?
If a strike is called for a whole day, it means that we shouldn’t do any work from midnight to midnight that day. This applies to all work, whether it is your normal shift, travel, overtime, standby or call-out. If the strike is called between particular times, we shouldn’t work between those times.
If the dates include a Friday and/or Monday, that does not mean that the strike includes the weekend, unless those dates are specified too.
B4) If I strike won’t it just mean I have more work to do afterwards?
No. A major purpose of 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 the action short of strike means 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.
B5) Annual Leave
Where the union calls on employees to take strike action, the action is made more effective the more people who strike.
However, for strikes at the end of the 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.
C – Money
C1) Getting Paid, Dispute Benefit and Hardship Payments
Employers don’t usually pay workers for strike days, but sometimes payment is agreed as part of a settlement.
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 “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.
C2) How does striking affect our pensions?
The details would vary from scheme to scheme.
Typically, members of Defined Contribution schemes such as FJUK would see their pension contributions reduced in line with their pay if taking strike action. This would have a very small impact on the pension.
For the few members still contributing to Defined Benefit schemes such as the ICL DB Pension Plan, the picture is more complicated. In previous industrial action, we believe contributions were paid as normal and there was no impact on pensions, but there potentially could be. If you are in this group, please discuss the situation with your rep.
D – Action Short of Strike
D1) What’s action short of strike?
There can be many forms of action short of strike. Some people who aren’t prepared to strike might take part in action short of strike.
The action called includes “work to rule and contract” and “policy of non co-operation”. You need to think about how that would apply in your area to have maximum impact on the company. The more effective we make the action short of strike, the fewer strike days we will need in order to win.
D2) I don’t normally get paid for extra hours of work/travel – would action short of strike affect me?
Yes. UNITE has called a ban on overtime (paid or unpaid) unless paid at least Unsocial Hours Policy (UHP) rates. You should write to your manager asking them whether they want to authorise you to claim overtime at UHP rates for all your extra hours or to only work your contracted hours. UNITE has drafted a model letter you can use.
D3) Is the intention to ban overtime?
Not all overtime. The aim is to put pressure on the company, not on ourselves. The action called means that overtime is banned unless it is paid at at least Unsocial Hours Policy (UHP) rates. UNITE has drafted 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.
D4) I regularly work Stand-By but not on UHP rates – how would I be affected?
If UNITE calls a ban on overtime and Stand-By unless paid at least Unsocial Hours Policy (UHP) rates and you normally get paid less than this, you should write to your manager asking them whether they want to authorise you to claim at UHP rates for all your Stand-By and overtime or to only work your contracted hours. UNITE has drafted a model letter you can use.
D5) What is the Unsocial Hours Policy (UHP)?
The UHP was for many years the company-wide policy covering overtime, standby and shifts. The company has been gradually undermining it for many years, trying to pay people less and less.
In summary, UHP overtime rates are 1.33x between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, 2x between 6pm Friday and 8am Monday, and 1.5x the rest of the week. UHP standby rates are 1/3 of the overtime rate for the same period, so for example an hour’s standby on a Saturday is paid at 1/3 x 2x. If called out while on standby, you retain your standby payment, but also get the overtime payment for the full period worked.
If you’re not sure whether you would get more, you can read the UHP online then claim at the best rate.

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'Fujitsu Whistleblower' hotline. Concerned about unethical or illegal practices? Contact the hotline on 0800 852 7479 or fujitsu.whistleblowers@unitetheunion.org. It is run by Unite the Union and your identity will be kept strictly confidential. Don't let Fujitsu silence whistleblowers.

Unite members working for Fujitsu Services Limited in the Manchester bargaining unit have taken 32 strike days over compulsory redundancies, victimisation of reps and breaches of agreements. This follows 27 previous days of strike action.

Industrial action is currently suspended but the fight continues.

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

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