HP agrees talks to head off major strike

HP has narrowly avoided a strike, due to have taken place today, of one thousand ex-EDS staff working on important government projects.

However, it witnessed a significant, smaller strike of key customer services engineers.

The majority of the 1,000 HP-EDS staff, due to have been on strike today, work on a contract with the Department for Work and Pensions. Others work at the Ministry of Defence. Observers had warned that the strike could take a serious toll on the projects, but HP had insisted it would have a “minimal” effect on services.

The workers’ complaint centres on pay freezes imposed for this and next year, as well as on the 3,400 EDS staff who have been made redundant since HP took over the company in 2008, and the 1,000 job losses planned for the first half of next year.

At the eleventh hour, HP agreed to sit down to talks with the Public and Commercial Services Union. Following a meeting that took place yesterday, the PCS called off the strike and a ban on overtime work, and HP will now meet with it on 16 December when the union hopes to reach a settlement for workers.

A PCS spokesperson told Computerworld UK: “We want a real assurance on job security and that staff will share in the profits of the company.” If a resolution is not reached, the PCS will set another date to strike.

Meanwhile, on Monday HP witnessed the first ever strike among its UK staff, affecting a different part of its business.

One hundred and thirty customer services engineers represented by a different union, Unite, refused to work for the day in an angry dispute over lost benefits. They are protesting after being transferred into the HP CDS business last month, which led to their final salary pension and a £2,000 performance bonus scheme being scrapped.

HP insisted prior to the strike that the action would have “no effect” on services. But the workers will strike for nine further days: on 11 and 12 January, followed by 1 and 2 February, and 22 to 26 February. They will refuse to work overtime from 4 January.

A spokesperson at Unite said the workers wanted “compensation for their losses”, and urged HP to begin talks. The workers are understood to be the only group with full union representation at HP UK, other than the unionised ex-EDS staff.

Staff and HP customers affected by both of these cases commented on the Computerworld UK news stories. An anonymous reader wrote that morale at the company is "awful, and has been for many years".

In another post, 'Bobby', a customer of HP CDS, called the services engineers' strike an "absolute disaster" for the supplier. "HP's support policy is now having a direct impact on its customers. Why as a customer would you allow HP to play Russian roulette with your business? Who can afford a long outage in this climate?"

HP said it "respects" the rights of its staff to be part of union, adding that it was working with customers to minimise the effect of any strike.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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