Workers at the Fujitsu services company are stepping up their fight for jobs, pay and pensions this week with the start of five days of strikes on Thursday and Friday. More action is set to follow on Monday, Thursday and Friday of next week.
This intensification comes after the Unite union members held the first ever national strike in the IT industry on Friday 18 December.
Big and lively picket lines were seen at Fujitsu offices across the country—including Manchester, Warrington, Crewe and Belfast—as the 1,600 union members struck.
The highly profitable company has put around 6,000 workers at risk of redundancy, with up to 1,200 jobs planned to go.
It proposes to close its final salary pension scheme, which the union estimates would be equivalent to a pay cut of around 20 percent for those affected.
It aims to dismiss the 4,000 staff affected and then re-employ them on new contracts with worse pension conditions.
Other companies have since followed Fujitsu’s example by attacking their final salary pension schemes.
Many workers believe the company is taking advantage of the recession to carry out the attacks.
But if Fujitsu workers can force the company back it will send a message to other workers facing similar attacks.
The union’s fighting stance has led to a big increase in membership in Fujitsu over the last few months.
Martin Cookson from Manchester said, “A loyal workforce is having to take action to defend our pensions and jobs. Management’s decisions are driving union membership up.
“People at other companies will hopefully be encouraged by seeing us standing up against what’s happening to our pensions.”
Steve Warren from London said, “For the last five or six years we’ve had pay rises that have been below inflation—which I view as a pay cut.
“This year the company pulled the pay rise from under us at the last minute—after announcing record profits.”
Michael Golding, also from London, said, “Not having a final salary pension scheme shifts all the risk onto the individual. We have to put more of our cash into our pensions while the companies draw back.
“What will my financial future be when I retire?”
“We have not chosen to fight now but we have no option.” George Latimer, the Warrington Unite rep, told Socialist Worker on the picket line. PCS union members who were not on strike joined the pickets.
“The strike has gone well. Many non-unionised workers have stayed away. Despite it being the coldest day of the year so far, getting 15 on a picket line shows the strength of feeling on this issue.”
Delroy Robinson from London said, “The company’s been getting away with this for far too long. In the past you could go to human resources if you had a problem, but its nature has changed in almost every company.
“Now the only thing people have got to look after their interests is the union.”
Jackie Cook, a Unite rep from Manchester, said, “I have been selected for compulsory redundancy on 31 January.
“Fujitsu is a profitable company and there is no need for these redundancies.
“A lot of other IT companies have followed suit with their defined benefit pension schemes after Fujitsu’s announcement.
“I am involved in the Unite campaign across the IT sector and whenever we get together we see that we are facing similar issues in different companies.
“We are fighting against our company hard, but if we were all fighting together it would help us along.”
Unite in Chesterfield has organised a public meeting to build on this desire for a united fight. It will include speakers from the Fujitsu dispute and the CSC and Steria companies, where workers have recently faced attacks over pensions.
Fujitsu has more than 100 sites across the country and pickets will gather at many of them during the strikes. Trade unionists from across the private and public sector should show their support for this group of workers engaged in a vital battle.
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Additional reporting by Dominic Williams.