Thursday, 30 October 2008

IT National Advisory Committee

Last week I took part in a very well attended and interesting UNITE "National Advisory Committee" for the IT industry. Stripped of the jargon, this means a meeting of union reps from various companies in the IT industry.

The process of groups with union organisation TUPEing into the IT industry continues. In terms of UNITE organisation, this is predominantly from the Finance sector at the moment.

We had a video link-up and presentation from India, where we are building links with UNITES (no relation), a union beginning to build in the IT and Business Process Outsourcing industries. These are small but very important beginnings. When workers in the UK see employers cutting jobs and transferring work to India it is too easy to see Indian workers as the enemy, rather than seeing them as potential allies in resisting the attempts by employers to drive down pay and conditions globally. There was a good discussion about practical ways of supporting each other.

We had a brief update on the HQ response to the motion passed at the sector conference about the planned UNITE "IT and Communications" sector. Not much had changed, though we were told that the Communication Managers Association (CMA) were happy with being in our sector, even if we didn't think it was appropriate.

We had a presentation from Incomes Data Services (IDS) about pay trends in the IT industry, which provoked a considerable amount of discussion. They get data from both employers and unions, and are keen to get more so that the quality of their research is improved. We also had a look at a report from e-Skills UK, which is the "sector skills council". This sort of pay data is invaluable for any rep negotiating pay.

We had a brief update on the union's work on learning in our sector from Sunil Patel, who has been heavily involved in the development of the ITQ qualification, which are aimed at IT users. It's all too easy to forget that large numbers of those working in the IT industry aren't in IT-based jobs or don't have qualifications in IT.

We discussed progress with organising and recruitment in the sector. Best progress is being made in EDS and Fujitsu, where there have been sustained and fairly systematic efforts to build the union. A bigger, stronger union means better results for employees. This doesn't just mean people filling in Direct Debit forms - it has to mean getting members involved, recruiting and training new reps etc.

We discussed about the situation at Steria in Manchester, where members are being balloted for action as part of a campaign against compulsory redundancies. As is normally the case when you get a bunch of reps together, the discussion produced some fresh ideas for taking the campaign forward. We all felt that in the current economic climate it is becoming even more important to take a stand against redundancies wherever possible.

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