Last Thursday UNITE met with Fujitsu HR and ACAS for further negotiations to try to resolve the disputes which have led members in Crewe and Manchester to take industrial action.
Though the company had only allocated two hours for the meeting, it seemed possible that progress could be made, given that the company had responded to the UNITE proposal of 16th September saying that “we are not in the position to agree tonight and would need further clarification and discussions” on four specific points.
Our negotiating team was therefore disappointed that instead of clarifying and discussing the four points on which differences remained, the company presented a new draft proposal which left the parties significantly further away from agreement.
While disappointing, such moving of the goalposts shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who’ve seen the company’s approach to negotiations in the past, and reinforces the need for the new and more constructive approach to industrial relations that Manchester members are demanding.
Some of the key points:
- Despite ACAS having (as is their statutory duty) offered to conciliate in an attempt to resolve Alan Jenney’s case, the company is not yet willing even to commit to trying to find a solution to this, the principal cause of the dispute in Crewe.
- The company was unwilling to implement its commitments to make the terms of its Defined Contribution pension schemes contractual for everyone, instead wanting to make just membership contractual – allowing the company to worsen our pension provision more readily in future.
- Instead of honouring its commitment to “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”, the company proposed to consult over future changes (does this mean only when they propose changes?) to pension arrangements by inviting Unite to join the Reward subgroup of Fujitsu Voice. This is a strange offer, given that the Fujitsu Voice reps already told the company that the subgroup is not adequate for discussions specifically about the FJUK pension plan, and the company had agreed with them!
- While saying they “are committed to honouring all agreements until any changes are agreed”, the proposals on many of the practical examples affecting members (e.g. cuts in Out Of Hours payments) showed a lack of willingness to turn these fine words into deeds
- The company had removed any timescale to make any offer to resolve the disputes, reinforcing the impression of time-wasting. The company proposal also included some bizarre demands ranging from the need to renegotiate an agreement the company team admitted they hadn’t read, to asking UNITE to agree not to ballot its members to participate in national action on 30th November.
More pressure is needed to persuade Fujitsu to settle the disputes. This wouldn’t be hard – all Fujitsu has to do is honour its agreements and stop picking on our reps.
In line with the decisions at recent members’ meeting, reps in Manchester have asked the union to call further industrial action in pursuit of a resolution to the dispute – look out for updates.
UNITE has also warned Fujitsu that unless there is a resolution the campaign will be going to the party conferences, where Fujitsu is having stalls, fringe meetings and receptions. Labour’s conference is this week in Liverpool and the Tories’ is next week in Manchester.
At a meeting in Crewe today, members decided to ask Unite to call a new ballot for industrial action on the wider range of issues already in dispute whilst still campaigning for justice for Alan Jenney. In the meantime, all industrial action for employees contractually based at Crewe should cease.
Even if you aren’t in one of the locations already involved in industrial action, you can help by joining the UNITE Fujitsu delegation at the TUC’s “March for the Alternative” demonstration at the Tory party conference in Manchester next Sunday (2nd October). UNITE is paying for transport for members to attend, so please book your place now. Please also let your reps know if you’re going so that the Fujitsu people can meet up and distribute campaign materials to the thousands of trade unionists who will be marching through Manchester.
UNITE is also making arrangements for further negotiations with the company with the aim of bringing these entirely avoidable disputes to an acceptable conclusion.