The wave of strikes at Fujitsu Services in defence of jobs, pay and pensions has shaken the IT company – and changed many people’s view of workers in the industry.
The Unite union members are escalating their fight with another six days of strikes, with the first set to take place on Friday of this week
This is an important strike over issues that matter to millions of workers. The company made some concessions after the vote for strikes – but not nearly enough.
“IT companies have changed,” said John Garvani, a Unite rep in Wakefield. “Fujitsu now has a lot of people who are effectively call centre operatives. These are some of the people most behind the strike in Wakefield.
“Some of them are paid just £1 an hour more than the minimum wage. A lot of the feeling behind the strike is about how people have been treated.
“There is a draconian management style – if they have to finish a call and are a few minutes late going to lunch that isn’t recognised, but if they are 17 seconds late back from lunch it counts against them.”
Alan Jenney, a Unite rep in Crewe, said, “At Fujitsu people feel enough is enough. Management expect the workforce to roll over and take another hit.
“Crewe is now one of the best organised sites with 20 pickets out on strikes days – which is one third of the membership.
“Fujitsu is using the recession as an opportunity to see how much they can take off us,” said Lynne Hodge, a rep in Manchester. “These are a pretty huge amount of cuts in one year.”
“Fujitsu is making profits and at the same time saying it can’t afford to give us a pay rise, that there have to be job losses and we can’t have a final salary pension scheme.
“Everyone’s got some beef with one or more of these issues, meaning that more people are taking action. Even people in the lower management ranks have been supportive.”
The anger at the company has seen union membership double over the last few months to over 1,450.
John said, “The company is being petty. On strike days, management have told the catering company for the office that staff aren’t allowed to give us hot drinks.
“Management even asked a union member to train someone to do her job when she was on strike.”
But the atmosphere at work is changing as a result of the dispute. Steve Warren, a Unite Fujitsu rep in London, said, “A typical comment I have had is that the strike has been a ‘breath of fresh air’.
“Management are treating me with respect for a change.They seem to be making efforts to not further antagonise the workforce – shame they didn’t do that in the first place.”
“Even people who were quite anti-union before have been supportive of the strikes,” said Lynne Hodge. “Many people who I thought would not join the union have done so.”
“The dispute has galvanised a lot of people,” said John Garvani. “The fact that we’re standing up to management has increased people’s confidence.
Alan Jenney added, “People who worked on the same floor but didn’t know one another are standing on the same picket line together.”
“We handed out leaflets about our dispute to customers outside a post office in Manchester,” said Lynne. “Most people said good luck to us.”
The union has announced that its members will strike on Friday of this week, Friday 29 January, Monday 1 February, Friday 5 February and Monday 8 February.
Workers in Northern Ireland will also strike on Tuesday, 26 January, while union members in Scotland, England and Wales will strike the next day.
Unite needs to make this an issue for all its members, with collections and invitations to Fujitsu speakers everywhere the union organises.
Solidarity has made a big difference
Trade unionists have shown impressive solidarity with the Fujitsu strikers, collecting money and inviting speakers from the dispute to their meetings.
Steve Warren, one of Unite’s Fujitsu reps in London, said, “This is my first involvement in a major dispute and I’ve been overawed by the support we’ve received from other organisations and unions.
“I’ve spoken to trade unionists from different sectors to raise support for our fight.”
“We’re picking up donations from other branches,” said John Garvani, a Unite rep in Wakefield.
“An NUJ journalists’ union member took me around offices in Sheffield to raise support for our dispute.”
The union is planning a day of solidarity meetings during the strike on Monday 8 February.
For more information, a collection sheet and pictures from the strike go to » www.ourunion.org.uk
Send messages of support to firstname.lastname@example.org