Manchester: Treatment of Your Reps

Some people in the company’s management sometimes reflect and exacerbate poor industrial relations by trying to “shoot the messenger” by treating reps unfairly.  UNITE members in Manchester have a good record in defending their reps, most notably seeing off attempts to discipline Ian Allinson (for failing to follow an instruction he had never been given) during the dispute in 2006-7 and to discipline Phil Tepper (for carrying out a survey on workplace stress) in 2011.
There have also been other lower-profile cases of reps being treated unfairly, and two of these seem to be coming to a head.
Jay Lieberman
Jay became a UNITE rep during our national strike over Jobs, Pay and Pensions in 2009-10 and is now one of the five Manchester members of UNITE’s Fujitsu UK Combine Committee.  Jay has faced rumbling issues since he received inappropriate negative feedback from a manager which related to his role in the strike.  Rather than resolving these issues, many of the company’s actions have made them worse, and Jay has had an extended period off with stress and difficulty securing assignments.
During the period, the company has gone through phases of repeatedly asking Jay to leave the company with a Compromise Agreement (CA), even when he has made it clear that he wants to stay working in Fujitsu.  This is part of a pattern where it appears the company is trying to “manage him out of the business”.
UNITE reps have come across quite a few cases where the company decides to “manage people out”, often based on no more than a manager taking a dislike to someone.  A worrying feature of several of these cases is that where people turn down CAs, the company then threatens or initiates disciplinary action against them on spurious conduct or capability grounds.
Legitimate disciplinary action is normally taken promptly, relates to specific charges, follows unsuccessful informal attempts to deal with issues, and is initiated following an investigation which seeks evidence both for and against the individual.  In cases where the company is trying to “manage someone out” UNITE is seeing disciplinary action launched out of the blue, often based on events many months ago, and on vague charges.
Employees invited to a disciplinary hearing have a right to know the charges and evidence against them, with enough detail and time in advance of the hearing to prepare their defence.
In Jay’s case, the company has initiated the disciplinary procedure without conducting an investigation first.  The charges are so vague that it would be impossible to refute them, and evidence has been late, missing or irrelevant.
The central allegation against Jay is that he “knowingly made false, malicious or spurious claims” but the company has so far been unwilling to tell Jay what these alleged claims were.  This is reminiscent of the attempted action against Ian Allinson in 2006 when the company claimed Ian had failed to follow a reasonable instruction but didn’t for some time say what the instruction was or when Ian was supposed to have received it.
UNITE continues to demand that Jay receives fair treatment from the company.  If Fujitsu presses ahead with the action, your support may be needed once again.
Ian Allinson
UNITE and the company have an agreement that reps should “neither benefit nor suffer detriment” as a result of their role.  It is members who should assess the performance of reps at election time, and it is important that members can choose their representatives freely – without members being discouraged from standing for fear of detriment – and without any suspicion that candidates are standing for their individual advancement rather than for the collective advancement of all members.
Ian was carrying out various representative roles (mainly UNITE, but also UKCF and Fujitsu Voice) full-time for most of the period from 2002 to 2012.  During that time the company consistently awarded Ian below-average pay rises and failed to fully apply the pay and benefits agreements to him.  While other employees have benefitted from the agreements that Ian has helped negotiate, the company is denying Ian the same benefits because of his representative role.
With UNITE’s support, Ian is trying to resolve these issues through the company grievance procedure, which will shortly go to the final stage.  In addition, UNITE has submitted a tribunal application on Ian’s behalf in order to ensure that he doesn’t fall foul of legal time limits.

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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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