by Leo King

Fujitsu UK staff strike over pay and conditions

Dec 20, 2009
IT LeadershipIT StrategyTelecommunications Industry

Hundreds of Fujitsu employees went on strike last week in the first ever national walkout at an IT company.

Scores of those on strike over jobs and pay on Friday also demonstrated outside the Fujitsu London headquarters, while others picketed outside Fujitsu offices in Belfast, Manchester, Stevenage, Crewe, Wakefield and Warrington.

The striking workers said the action hit a number of major Fujitsu contracts, including with Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, the Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs, Defra, the Financial Services Authority, and the Post Office.

The news comes at a time of increased tension between IT staff and employers. One thousand HP staff, working on government contracts, last week cancelled a strike after their employer agreed to talks at the eleventh hour.

Friday’s Fujitsu strike demonstrated the “depth of anger” among the workforce, who are protesting against 1,000 planned redundancies, a pay freeze, and the proposed closure of a final salary pension scheme, according to trade union Unite. It also represented successful action in an embarrassing week for the union after the high court blocked its attempts to call a 12-day Christmas strike among British Airways cabin crew.

Fujitsu staff had cancelled a previous strike due in November, after the company agreed to talks. This was followed by an offer that Unite members said gave “little guarantee” over their jobs or pay. The staff rejected that offer and Unite called the strike.

Peter Skyte, Unite national officer, told CIO sister title Computerworld UK at Friday’s London demonstration: “The commitments made by Fujitsu in the talks were not sufficient, they were mainly vague promises.”

He contrasted Fujitsu’s “approach” with that taken by its rival Steria. Following extensive talks with Unite, which avoided industrial action, Steria yesterday agreed an alternative pension scheme for its employees.

Skyte said Fujitsu management had today “come out to see the strike”, and that he had invited them to sit down for discussions in the New Year. Fujitsu did not make an immediate commitment, he said.

There will be five further days of Fujitsu strikes, on 7, 8, 11, 14 and 15 January, if the two parties do not re-enter talks. Unite is looking for assurances over jobs, as well as “realistic” pay and pensions agreements.

The protest had the theme of Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. A Fujitsu worker, who was dressed as Scrooge, said: “The conditions are really bad, there’s a massive workload as they lay off people but want even more to get done. I’ve worked for Fujitsu for nine years, I’ve had four measly pay rises and I’m only on £18,000 now.”

Another employee at the protest, said: “Striking is really the last resort. But Fujitsu are being really ignorant – they say they appreciate their skilled workforce but they take away pay and benefits.”

Fujitsu reiterated that it was “disappointed” the strike went ahead while pension talks continue. A spokesperson said: “We would like to see a resolution. We’re always open to negotiation.”

Asked why staff were facing higher workloads, Fujitsu said it regretted the situation but added that it “needs to be seen within the IT industry context”. “We are all trying to keep our overheads down to fight the recession”, the spokesperson said.