Up to 300 Unite members in Manchester are to vote on further strike action at IT giant Fujitsu in one of the longest running industrial disputes in the UK.
The ballot comes after the failure of talks between Duncan Tait, Fujitsu’s head of Americas, Europe, Middle East, India and Africa and Len McCluskey, Unite’s general secretary where the union was seeking to halt the redundancy process for six members, and to address concerns that the company is discriminating against active union members.
The two met last week to discuss the issues facing members and the company. Len McCluskey asked Fujitsu to pause the redundancies of members fighting to stay and the victimisation of union reps.
Duncan Tait agreed that the redundancy processes for the six members would be paused for five/six weeks to allow time for discussions to try to find options for the six members but later this commitment was withdrawn.
Unite says that Fujitsu has reneged on this commitment by dismissing Mrs Saj Patel, who had over 17 years’ service with the company, with almost no warning.
The union argues that the dismissal breaks existing agreements because her grievance over her redundancy had not been heard. According to the union, part of that grievance was a complaint that her redundancy is linked to a pattern of bullying and sexual harassment and that Fujitsu has rushed to dismiss her rather than investigating her allegations properly.
The union says that at least three jobs in her department have been turned down by colleagues but not been offered to her.
Unite national officer for the IT sector Louisa Bull said: "This union has worked tirelessly to reach a reasonable and fair solution to this dispute.
“However, not only does the company not want to listen, it has backtracked on commitments and its treatment of union representatives is highly alarming and discriminatory.
“It looks now as if we are heading for further industrial action because this union will never accept this sort of behaviour from an employer.
"There are real and concerning problems in terms of how Fujitsu treats its workers, including those who have given years of loyal service. This mistreatment, allied to the company's refusal to engage constructively, is causing the chances of a negotiated solution to recede by the day.
“We urge the company to think again and work with us to settle this dispute."
According to Unite, a majority of the six are from an ethnic minority and a majority have a disability. The six include Ian Allinson and Denis Morris, two of the Unite representatives who the union claims are being unfairly victimised for their union activity.
Another, Lynne Hodge, is not currently at risk of redundancy but Unite says that Fujitsu's HR department is blocking implementation of an agreed resolution and have told colleagues not to work with her.
According to the union, Fujitsu promised employee representatives information about the equality impact of the redundancies, but are now keeping this secret. This follows allegations of discrimination in previous Fujitsu redundancy programmes.
Last week workers staged protests in Manchester against Mrs Patel’s dismissal and in London against the victimisation of Ian Allinson. Over 2,100 people have signed an online petition against the victimisation of union reps at Fujitsu.
Union members have voted in a consultative ballot that they are prepared to take strike action and Unite is running a statutory ballot of Manchester members which closes on 10 January. This follows 27 days of strike action over the last year.
Notes to editors:
Fujitsu employs nearly 8,000 people in the UK delivering IT services to government and major companies.
Petition against victimisations: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/fujitsu-victimisations
For pictures and further information about the dispute see www.ouruniontest.wordpress.com, Facebook (www.facebook.com/UniteAtFujitsu) and Twitter https://twitter.com/unitefujitsu@UniteFujitsu
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1 Web: unitetheunion.org
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.