Sad end of an era at Fujitsu Birmingham


A decades-old struggle to defend telecoms equipment manufacturing and repair work in the West Midlands has reached the end of the road, with the CWU’s battle-worn and hugely depleted membership at Fujitsu in Birmingham now braced for the final cruel blow tomorrow (August 31).

The formal final day of service for all but a handful of the union’s bargaining unit at Fujitsu’s Birmingham Business Park site represents the sad end of a workstream that dates right back to when BT manufactured its own telephone network equipment.

28 and a half years after BT sold its already part-divested Fulcrum Communications manufacturing division to Fujitsu in March 1991, the final element of repair work that survived the cessation of manufacturing at the Birmingham site in 2008 is now falling victim to the beleaguered company’s latest restructure.

In stark contrast to the spirited campaign the CWU mounted in 2008 – which at least part mitigating the loss of 140 manufacturing jobs – this month’s wind-down of the Birmingham repair operation has been a subdued affair.

“For years now it’s been a constant battle to try to save jobs,” explains CWU assistant secretary John East.

“Since the union’s 2008 battle for Birmingham – which memorably included a black balloon release stunt that was widely covered by the West Midlands media (pictured) – the pressure has been relentless.

“In April 2016 we again mounted a major campaign against the closure of Fujitsu’s Antrim site – ultimately securing a deal which enabled those not wanting to take voluntary redundancy to transfer to a specially created new repair operation in Belfast – but just seven months later our entire membership at Fujitsu was placed at risk of redundancy or TUPE.

“In the end we managed to persuade the company to remove the repair operation from the scope of the massive outsourcing and offshoring initiative –but the sad situation now unfolding in Birmingham relates directly to a collapse of confidence in Fujitsu by its corporate customers that we always warned was probable when it was no longer servicing those customers first-hand.

“I take no pleasure whatsoever in the fact that CWU and other unions opposing the mass lay-offs and outsourcings of 2017 have been proved right. The sad truth, after all, is that, after the last four disastrous years, our members in Fujitsu made it absolutely clear to their local CWU representatives that, this time round, they no longer had the heart to fight for their jobs.

“Indictments of dreadful company decisions by morale-sapped employees don’t come clearer than that – and faced with that mindset the CWU has concentrated on getting the best we possibly can for members in a compulsory redundancy situation.”

John concludes: “I’d just like to thank all those Fujitsu membership in Birmingham who will be leaving the business on August 31 for their loyalty to the union and to wish then all the best for the future.”

The CWU will continue to represent the small workforce remaining in Belfast.

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