Sunday 30 August 2009

The battle widens at Fujitsu

The campaign by UNITE and PCS over pay and pensions at Fujitsu, where I work, reached a crucial stage this week, with the end of the consultative ballots over industrial action.

UNITE & PCS members both returned overwhelming majorities for action.

This week we also had the announcement by Fujitsu of 1200 job cuts in the UK, putting roughly half the company's 12,500 UK staff at risk. An overlapping 4000 of us were already "at risk" because of the company proposal to dismiss and re-engage us without our pensions.

The offensive by the company against its workforce keeps growing, but thankfully the response from employees keeps growing too. UNITE and PCS reps have decided to add "jobs" to the existing "pay and pensions" campaign and to move quickly to a statutory industrial action ballot. It is already clear that another big wave of staff joining the unions has begun.

UNITE has issued a press release which is already getting coverage, such as this BBC report. PCS has also issued a press release about the job cuts. There is more detail on the ballot result and campaign plans on the UNITE Fujitsu "OurUnion" web site.

Saturday 29 August 2009

Another watershed in the decline of manufacturing

The news of the end of manufacturing at Toshiba's Plymouth plant, with the loss of 270 jobs, means the end of mass TV manufacturing in the UK.

The government's failure to intervene to protect jobs and working people is an absolute scandal, especially set against their blank cheques for war and to bail out the banks.

After the economic disaster unleashed by the "free market" lunacy that has dominated the world in recent decades, you might have thought that all parties would be distancing themselves from such policies as quickly as they could. But you would be wrong. Instead, the prescription is basically more of the same.

I hope there's a good UNITE presence on the "Jobs, Education, Peace & Justice" demonstration on 27th September at the Labour Party conference, which has been called by PCS, UCU, NUT, NUJ and a variety of campaigning organisations.

Friday 21 August 2009

UNITE Sector, Area and Equality Conferences

Further to my previous posts on the subject, the UNITE web site now has a list of the dates of the various conferences. Scotland still seems to be missing.

I know it seems quite bewildering, would I encourage all reps to get involved in the conferences and committees. Only a high level of involvement from the activists in the workplaces can ensure that our union is fully responsive to the needs of our members and can run effective campaigns on all the issues. It can be tempting to limit your union activity to your own workplace, but our members lives extend beyond the gate and the world beyond the gate impinges on what happens in the workplace economically, politically and ideologically. We are all affected by government policy, union policy and what other companies and their employees are doing.

The Electrical Engineering and Electronics Regional Industrial Sector Conferences are:

  • North East, Yorks & Humber: 10th September 2009
  • Wales: 14th September 2009
  • North West: 15th September 2009
  • South West: 16th September 2009
  • West Midlands: 17th September 2009
  • South East: 19th September 2009
  • East Midlands: 21st September 2009
  • London & Eastern: 23rd September 2009
  • Ireland: 24th September 2009
  • Scotland: TBC

The IT & Communications Regional Industrial Sector Conferences are:
  • 3 Sept: Scotland
  • 7 Sept: South West
  • 7 Sept: Wales
  • 8 Sept: West Midlands
  • 9 Sept: Ireland
  • 12 Sept: South East
  • 19 Sept: London & Eastern
  • 21 Sept: North-East, Yorkshire & Humber
  • 21 Sept: East Midlands
  • 22 Sept: North West

Thursday 20 August 2009

IBM Pensions Protest on BBC South

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Pension Deficit Snapshots - Pictures for Fools

This BBC report yesterday, which includes PPF figures that deficits in pension funds fell from £200bn to £158bn during the month of July, shows why focusing on the deficit at a moment in time is such a bad way of judging the state of a pension fund.

Pensions are long-term investments, so it's not sensible to make major decisions based on their state on a particular day. Don't take this from me, take it from Richard Christou, who wrote a magazine article last year saying:

"I personally believe that a snapshot on a single day, based on clearly defined criteria, is not the best way to analyse your liabilities."
Mr Christou was, at the time, Chief Executive Officer of Fujitsu Services. He sits on the company's Pension Policy Committee, the body that decided to propose closure of Fujitsu's main defined benefit pension scheme (the ICL DB Plan).

Perhaps employees should listen more to what senior executives say to each other than what they say to us?

Saturday 8 August 2009

Barclays Pensions: Resistance Works - Keep It Up!

The reported concessions from Barclays' senior management in response to the strike threat and demonstration organised by UNITE over the plan to close the final salary pension are good news. It seems unlikely this progress would have been made without the pressure staff have applied.

But let's be clear - phasing in contribution increases only delays the pain and doesn't deal with the reduced pension provision, which is surely the main issue. Barclays still proposes to close the final salary scheme.

Any pension scheme member would welcome their employer putting in more to pay off the deficit, which helps make pensions more secure. But this won't impact Barclays' overall balance sheet - it means moving some of the company's huge profits from one part of the balance sheet to another, reducing both their assets and their liabilities.

Given the huge profits Barclays announced, there can be little doubt that the company can afford to maintain a good defined benefit pension scheme. As the Grangemouth workers put it - "Mind the GAP":

  • Greedy Employer
  • Affordable Pensions
  • Profitable Company
Let's hope Barclays staff keep pushing for more.

Thursday 6 August 2009

First wind-turbines, now batteries - more jobs under threat

The threat to close the Vestas wind-turbine factory in the Isle of Wight has provoked widespread outrage - how can the government claim a commitment to green jobs while allowing these jobs to go to the wall? Why should we stand by and see these jobs lost when they are essential to countering climate change? Why should the government spend billions of our money bailing out banks and yet do so little to protect manufacturing?

The campaign by Vestas workers and their supporters has been truly inspirational. Whatever the final outcome of this dispute, they have pushed the issues of jobs and the environment far higher up the political agenda than if they had walked away. It looks likely that tomorrow the management will try to evict the occupiers - let's hope that there is enough support to prevent that happening. Either way, this is not an issue that will go away.

In this context, the announcement that Exide intend to close their battery plant in Bolton is even more outrageous. If we are to successfully tackle climate change, the ability to store and move energy will be crucial, so that power can be generated from low-carbon sources and used where it is needed.

Nobody can be left under any illusion that this government has any commitment to protecting manufacturing jobs or the environment. But that doesn't mean they can't be forced to act if the campaigns are strong enough.

Monday 3 August 2009

Minutes of UNITE Executive Council meetings

I'm pleased to see the minutes are now being published on the union's web site.

There's an inevitable delay, as they can't be published until agreed at the subsequent EC meeting.

Sunday 2 August 2009

UNITE conference dates

Despite the last EC meeting (nearly a month ago now) agreeing to my proposal that the dates and arrangements for all the conferences etc should be posted on the union web site, this still hasn't happened as far as I can see, even though some conferences have already been held.

These are the dates I've been told so far for the EEE sector Regional Industrial Sector Conferences are:

  • North East, Yorks & Humber: UPDATE: 10th September 2009
  • Wales: 14th September 2009
  • North West: 15th September 2009
  • South West: 16th September 2009
  • West Midlands: 17th September 2009
  • South East: 19th September 2009 (NB: union web site says 12th September, so worth checking)
  • East Midlands: 21st September 2009
  • Ireland: 24th September 2009
  • London & Eastern: TBC
  • Scotland: TBC
If you get any updates, please let me know and I'll post them here to encourage attendance.

I haven't got any of the dates for the IT & Communications sector yet.

Update on ITC Regional Industrial Sector Conferences (from UNITE web site):
  • South West: 7th September 2009
  • Wales: 7th September 2009
  • West Midlands: 8th September 2009
  • South East: 19th September 2009
  • East Midlands: 21st September 2009
  • North East, Yorkshire & Humber: 21st September 2009

For details of the constituencies etc for the conferences, please see my report from the July EC meeting.

In the North West, I've also heard:
  • Manchester Area Activists: 10th September 2009
  • NW Disabled Conference: 7th October 2009
  • NW Women's Conference: 8th October 2009
  • NW Black & Minority Ethnic (BAME) Conference: 9th October 2009
  • NW LGBT Conference: 12th October 2009

UNITE equality structures

There's a helpful piece on the UNITE web site explaining the new equality structures.

I particularly like the diagram:
This particular picture is worth several thousand words!

If you're eligible for any of the equality structures, please make sure you get involved.

Pensions fight hots up - IBM & Fujitsu

If the posts to the "Association of Members of IBM UK Pension Plans" forums are anything to go by, there is an astonishing growth of union membership at IBM, once a bastion of non-unionism.

It's good to see UNITE working to ensure that this builds organisation, not just membership, with UNITE meetings open to all IBM staff organised for:

  • 7pm on Wed 5th Aug, in the Holiday Inn (M3 junction 13), Leigh Road, Eastleigh, S050 9PG.
  • Midlands on Thu 6th or Fri 7th Aug.
  • A meeting in Scotland is being also discussed.

Meanwhile we at Fujitsu start our consultative industrial action ballot over pay and pensions this week. If you'd like to send us a message of support, click on the link below to see the email address:

I'm pleased to say that our sister union in Fujitsu, PCS, is balloting its members too - unity is strength!

For more information about our campaign, see