by Leo King

Fujitsu accused of ‘discrimination’ by striking staff

Jan 10, 2010
IT StrategyTelecommunications Industry

Fujitsuis under fire for possible discriminatory practices in selecting staff up for redundancy.

The union’s claims come as Fujitsu workers stage their fourth day of strike action over redundancies, pay and pensions.

The union believes it has found “major discrepancies” in the scoring of women, part time and ethnic minority staff selected for redundancy. Fujitsu swiftly denied the claims.

The issue is important because Fujitsu prides itself on being an equal opportunities employer and many of its contracts, particularly with the public sector, contain string equal opportunities clauses.

Unite, which represents thousands of the IT services company’s UK employees, said it was “disturbed” at the results of an analysis of those selected for redundancy and said its concerns had not been addressed.

Fujitsu had provided alarming data on selection criteria in one unit, Application Services, and had refused to provide information on the other five units, it said.

Peter Skyte, Unite national officer, said: “We are disturbed to find that a disproportionate number of women, part-time and ethnic minority workers appear to have been selected for redundancy at Fujitsu, but have had no meaningful response from the company to our queries on this.”

A spokesperson at Fujitsu rebuffed any suggestion of discrimination. “We are very disappointed that Unite has made these allegations. As an equal opportunities employer Fujitsu consulted on the proposed selection criteria with elected employee representatives and with representatives of its recognised trade unions (including Unite) throughout the collective redundancy programme and is confident that no discrimination resulted.

“We are aware of the points raised by Unite and have responded detailing our reasons as to why we are confident our selection process was fair and was not discriminatory.”

Fujitsu staff are protestingagainst proposals for 1,200 redundancies in the UK, a pay freeze already in place, and plans by the company to close the main final salary pension scheme to future accrual.

With Fujitsu facing a further three days of strike action this week, and the company said it had reduced the number of redundancies from 1,200 to 876, of which 586 were voluntary redundancies.

It has also decided not to implement proposed changes to the pension scheme, a key demand of the strikers, for at least 12 months while the consultation process continues.

The company is likely to be more intransigent on the union’s pay demands. A spokesman said there had been no pay cuts at Fujitsu, but there was not going to be a “retrospective” pay rise.

Fujitsu employs around 11,500 people in the UK, with sites at London, Bracknell, Stevenage, Manchester, Crewe, Belfast, Staines, Basingstoke, Wakefield, Sheffield, Solihull, Telford, Swansea, Slough, Lewes, Warrington, Cardiff, Londonderry, Bristol and Newcastle.

Strike action has been targeted at a number of major Fujitsu contracts, including Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, the Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs, Defra, the Financial Services Authority, and the Post Office.

Unite’s allegation of discrimination at Fujitsu

In the Applications Services division, which employs 1,500 staff, 6.7 percent of women were selected for redundancy, compared to 3.7 percent of men. Over 10 percent of Indian staff were selected, compared to 3.9 percent across other groups. Nine percent of part-time staff were chosen, compared to 3.9 percent of full timers.

Additionally, the company gave top scoring in the ‘critical skills’ criteria to 18 percent of men, even though, Unite said, the probability of this distribution happening by chance was less likely than winning six numbers on the national lottery. In comparison, four percent of women were awarded the top score.

In the ‘business considerations and commitments’ category, low scores were given to 43 percent of non-white employees, compared to 22 percent of white staff.