HP and Fujitsu staff stop work in biggest strike yet

Hundreds of staff at both HP and Fujitsu have taken part in two separate strikes today, affecting major government and private sector IT contracts.

Union members at HP staff, working mainly at the Department of Work and Pensions, have stayed away from work today in a protest over pay freezes and job cuts. Other contracts hit include the Ministry of Defence and General Motors.

Around 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union voted for the strike. “IT services are going to be disrupted,” a spokesperson at the PCS union told Computerworld UK.

In December, the PCS cancelled a strike by the same staff, as HP hours before had agreed to return to negotiations.

The HP workers’ protest centres around a pay freeze imposed for this and next year - as well redundancies. Around 3,400 EDS staff have been made redundant since HP took over the company in 2008, and 1,000 job losses are planned for the first half of this year.

In negotiations HP is understood to have offered to remove the pay freeze, but the PCS said today this was not sufficient to end the action.

HP said today it had taken steps to mitigate the effect of the strike, by reducing non-urgent project work and prioritising “critical work”. The company said it had presented a “reasonable offer” to staff, and was disappointed at today’s action.

Meanwhile, large numbers of Fujitsu staff have begun a fresh phase of strike action, targeting work at Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, the Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs, Defra, the Financial Services Authority, and the Post Office.

A further set of action by Fujitsu staff, in the Unite trade union, has been called, with strikes next Friday, and on 1, 5 and 8 February. Peter Skyte, Unite national officer, said he hoped today’s strike would encourage the “channels to open again so we can restart formal talks”.

He urged Fujitsu to follow the path taken by rival IT services firm Steria, which set a “positive example” last month by agreeing new staff pension terms with Unite following successful discussions.

Fujitsu today said it was also keen to resolve the dispute. Discussions on pensions were “ongoing”, a company spokesperson said, adding that of 876 scheduled redundancies, Fujitsu was “striving” to ensure as many as possible were voluntary.

Two hundred and fifty seven of these employees are compulsory cuts, and the 519 remaining were taken as voluntary redundancies, he said.

The Fujitsu staff are also disputing a pay freeze, as well as the closure of their final salary pension scheme, issues that remain under informal discussion unless official talks resume.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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