26 June 2017

Relief at Fujitsu rethink

The sword of Damocles that has been hanging over the CWU’s entire Fujitsu membership since November last year has been dramatically lifted following a company about-turn on plans to outsource its repair operations in Belfast and Birmingham.

The good news, which follows repeated CWU warnings that the union would fight the outsourcing of a highly competitive in-house function every inch of the way, means that the 58 CWU-represented grade employees have now been taken out of scope of a massive company reorganisation that has affected almost 1,800 Fujitsu workers across the UK.

From the outset the CWU had argued that plans to outsource the repair function - based at the only two Fujitsu sites where the CWU is recognised for collective bargaining purposes - were ill-conceived and nonsensical amid evidence that the highly experienced in-house staff could not be beaten on price.

In the course of a chaotic consultation process which frequently bordered on farce, employees at both sites were initially told in November 2016 that their jobs could be at risk from as early as February this year - followed by months of uncertainty when it emerged that tendering hadn’t even taken place at that stage - and a subsequent announcement that no decision would be made on their fate until September at the earliest.

Assistant secretary John East told The Voice: “ Right from the start we made it clear to management that, if Fujitsu proceeded with outsourcing on purely dogmatic grounds, they’d have fight on their hands. I’m 100 per cent convinced that the solidarity demonstrated by members in Northern Ireland last year in defiance of the company’s move to make compulsory redundancies when their work was moving from Antrim to Belfast has contributed to the positive outcome for CWU members this time around.”

The latest saga began just eight weeks before Christmas when workers at both sites received the bolt from the blue that they were being placed ‘at risk’ of either redundancy or TUPE transfer as a result of upheavals gripping Fujitsu involving wholesale outsourcing, offshoring and the cessation of some business activities altogether.

Despite months of agonising uncertainty, the positive outcome secured for members in Belfast and Birmingham bears testament not just to decisive CWU intervention but also the determination of local management to secure the sites’ future by exploring various imaginative ways to boost the self-evident efficiency of the repair operations still further.

John East concludes: “The net result of the decision that was announced to staff on June 15 is that, instead of becoming victims of an apparent fire-sale of Fujitsu’s operations in the UK, our members have instead emerged as some of the very few winners in a difficult situation that is still unfolding.

“Thanks to the proven efficiency of the Belfast and Birmingham operations that the CWU championed from the outset, we’ve moved from a situation where the union’s entire Fujitsu membership was at risk of potential redundancy to one where there will be no job losses whatsoever.

“Indeed the insourcing of repair work that was previously outsourced by other parts of the company mean work volumes may actually increase  - opening up the tantalising possibility that more staff may be needed.

“That’s some turn-around - and one that CWU members at both sites can be justly proud of."

    • Meetings are currently being sought with Fujitsu  to discuss not just details of how additional repair workloads will be handled - but also to progress the CWU’s 2017 pay claim for a ‘substantial rise’ for members that reflects their contribution and the rising cost of living. The pay rise becomes due on August 1.

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