Manchester : Compulsory redundancies, Breach of Agreements

Well done to all the members and non-members who took part in the protest on 3rd September, attended the members’ meeting on 5th September or supported the campaign in other ways.
UNITE is pleased to report that the company did not go ahead with dismissing Pete —.  The company postponed the dismissal several times and has now offered Pete a job which he has accepted and begun.
Fujitsu and every UNITE member can be proud of maintaining our record of nobody in the bargaining unit being forced out through redundancy without their consent.  There is no doubt that this would not have been achieved without our hard-won agreements, the support of employees and considerable effort by a number of people in the company’s management.
However, the picture is not entirely one of unblemished good news.
Fujitsu did not offer Pete any of the “suitable alternative jobs” that were available.  The company accepts that the job it has offered Pete is an “alternative job” rather than a “suitable alternative job”.  This is primarily because it is in Blackpool, which is a big change for someone who lives in South Manchester and has a young family.
UNITE reps are currently awaiting confirmation from Pete that suitable flexible arrangements have been made to ensure that he can make a go of his new job.  If this is not successful, Pete would need another redeployment or to claim redundancy during his 6-month “trial period” in the new job.
The rocky road that has brought us to this point has some important lessons for other redeployment and redundancy situations such as in Service Desk Solutions and the MAN23 closure.
Support
The level of proactive support given to employees at risk varies enormously.  In some cases managers and HR actively look for suitable alternative work for staff at risk, ring fence jobs to give staff at risk priority in applying for them, put in place training and shadowing in other roles etc.  This approach should be the norm, not the exception.
In Pete’s case, he had to push (with UNITE support) for everything.  Members at risk should learn from this case – not to take things at face value or rely on everything going smoothly.
The company decided, late in the process and without justification, that it wouldn’t allow Pete to work his notice, which would have allowed him more time to seek redeployment, and his sudden dismissal was only averted by UNITE putting in a collective grievance.  Members should try to get a decision on working notice as early as possible in the process.
Pete had to challenge jobs he had applied for being offered to staff not at risk – before he’d even been interviewed.  The company turned down opportunities to “pair” other employees willing to give Pete their jobs and take Voluntary Redundancy on the feeblest of grounds.
If you are at risk, ask for what you want as early as possible and keep pushing for it.
Treating Employees with Respect
The company caused Pete unnecessary stress at a number of key points.  After having committed to respect the “status quo” and deal with the grievance about the redundancies, it reversed its position without explanation and decided to dismiss Pete.  The company then repeatedly postponed Pete’s dismissal date by short periods.  This meant Pete was repeatedly put in the position of not knowing whether he would have a job the next day.  On one occasion the company failed to stop aspects of his dismissal being processed and he lost access to company systems.
Once the company decided to offer Pete the Blackpool job, it had to prepare a written job offer setting out the details.

  • Pete was sent the offer at 2:26pm on a Friday, and told that if he hadn’t accepted it by 3pm he would be dismissed.  The offer contained errors, but the relevant HR people were unavailable to discuss it.
  • A second version was sent to Pete at 2:41pm, again with a 3pm deadline to accept or be dismissed.
  • This still wasn’t right, so a third version was sent to Pete at 3:44pm with a 4pm deadline to accept or be dismissed.  Despite not understanding parts of the letter, Pete was forced to accept the offer in order to avoid dismissal, in the hope of resolving the issues later.

UNITE reps are used to this kind of brinksmanship from the company in collective discussions, where this behaviour is bad enough.  It would be better to try to resolve issues through constructive dialogue than engaging in such “hard-sell” tactics.  But UNITE has made clear to Fujitsu that it is completely unacceptable to treat an individual employee in this way.  employees should be encouraged to take major life decisions after calm reflection on all the facts, and the opportunity to discuss the options with their families.
Avoiding Redundancies
A central part of UNITE’s collective grievance over the redundancies was the company’s failure to carry out the measures to avoid redundancies set out in section 6.1 of the Annex 1 agreement, which cover issues such as looking at reducing overtime or use of contractors in preference to cutting jobs.
Despite UNITE writing to Duncan Tait twice, raising the issues through the redundancy consultation forums, raising them through the Joint Working Group and a collective grievance, some people in HR still claim to have been unaware that UNITE had any issues.
Last week UNITE had a constructive discussion with the company about how issues are handled, with an emphasis on more dialogue at an earlier stage.  This discussion will continue at the Joint Working Group meeting on 29th October.

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Sign the petition – defend the union

Unite members across Fujitsu Services Limited in the UK are fighting over job security, for union recognition, against victimisation of reps, and over pay and pensions. Members nationally took industrial from 28 February including 15 days of strikes and ongoing action short of strike, after 12 days of local strikes in Manchester.

INDUSTRIAL ACTION IS CURRENTLY SUSPENDED but members have voted by 92% to reject a company offer.

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

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