Tuesday 6 December 2011

IT & Comms National Industrial Sector Conference 2011

The following motions were passed at last week's UNITE IT & Communications National Industrial Sector Conference.

1 Mode 4

This IT & Comms NISC notes the EU is negotiating a multibillion pound free trade agreement with the Indian Government that includes World Trade Organisation Mode 4 provisions, which will allow transnational companies to bring in local labour to work temporarily inside the EU, including the UK.

The Information Technology industries are particularly vulnerable to these proposed provisions.

This NISC is alarmed Mode 4 will mean it will be almost impossible to enforce employment rights for Indian workers because they may be employed by “companies of convenience” with their employment contracts registered in India, outside the jurisdiction of UK courts.

2 Home Workers

With the ever-expanding facility of home working within ITC it is becoming commonplace for employers to seek to reduce their costs not only by reducing office accommodation of their own but, also on the customer sites their staff are allocated to, without carrying out the full or proper workplace assessment..

Too often members are expected to work at unreasonable times in unsuitable conditions whilst the employer “spies” on them with screen prints or key stroke counters, but failing to ensure the appropriateness of conditions or even hours worked.

This Conference calls upon the NISC and Executive Council to put into place guidance for individuals within the IT & Communications Sector who are compelled to be home workers.

Once the proper standards are established and guidance provided to IT home workers, this NISC calls upon the National Officer to seek agreement to these basic entitlements along with the institution of best practice on an industry-wide basis.

3 Pay Transparency

The conference welcomes the organising campaign focussed on fair pay and benefits in the IT sector and calls on Unite to push for pay transparency throughout the IT and communications sector.

This conference believes that our members in this sector are being disadvantaged through employers controlling information on pay and grading. It is common practice for pay to be determined through market rates and these are ultimately controlled by the employers. Pay transparency will give our members the opportunity to actually see where they are rather than believe their employers who invariably will aim for the lowest paid.

This conference believes that the secrecy over pay rates should be abolished and calls on all reps in the sector to actively share their pay data so that a database of pay rates, progression and increases can be created by Unite for the use of reps in negotiations.

4 Organising in the IT & Communications Industry

This IT & Comms Conference congratulates the NISC over the initiative UNITE for Fair and Transparent Pay and Benefits in IT Services as a step forward in promoting the Sector as a union lobbying voice for Industry workers.

This Conference believes that Unite is best placed to become the union for Information Technology and Communications workers. This Conference notes, however, that UNITE's profile in the industry does not reflect this potential.

Conference considers it is of fundamental importance that the Sector develops and implements an organising strategy with both sufficient resources and support and realistic targets for the next five years.

We believe that such a strategy must be under constant review and needs to draw upon knowledge and ideas from appropriate activists both within and without the Sector as many IT/Comms workers have been outsourced from unionised employers. IT workers in particular exist in every Industry and Service Sector if they are in the union and whilst they are not part of this Sector they still possess valuable experience we can utilise.

Most members currently joining are as individuals and in workplaces where collectivism does not exist. If they have workplace issues requiring support, it can divert scarce officer resource away from helping to build self-sustaining organised workforces.

To help our organising efforts we need to create a database of employers that have signed up to the UN Global Compact Agreement and use their OWN commitment to it by ensuring every UK worker has the right to be organised and participate in collective bargaining. This should be an integral part of any company organising campaign across the IT sector.

Therefore we call upon the NISC to adopt (including supporting referrals to the EC if required) the following action points:
1. All individual members (unless willing to be an activist) joining from unorganised workplaces without a rep in the IT Sector must be informed that they will only automatically qualify for telephone advice or support from a lay companion, if available.  The planned introduction of a UNITE call centre will assist manage the demands of such members.

2. Continued support for strengthening organisation and recruitment in larger companies where we already have a base of membership: this to include training, organiser resource, and materials to support activists on the ground.

3. Support for activists at smaller companies where the enthusiasm of the activists, and the issues around which we can organise, indicate a potential for significant recruitment and/or recognition in the short to medium term.

4. All other sectors' RISCs should be asked through their NISCs for reports of any outsourcing or joint activity with IT workers in their workplaces.

5. Exploit opportunities using social networking media as well as trade magazines and industry specific websites - especially those advertising employment.

6. Increased public profile through IT & Comms website that takes up industry issues and allows feedback (and recruitment), and through article/letter/press release placements in industry publications/websites, to demonstrate the union's relevance to workers in the industry.

7. Investigate if a separate website aimed at Industry workers would be of use such as for example www.workinIT.com.

8. Increased coordination of activity through the Sector RISCs with each RISC receiving stats on membership changes, Industry significant developments and collective bargaining data.

9. Support informal IT & Communications Forums across Sectors if relevant to generate ideas and share information.

10. Provide training and awareness sessions around the International Labour Standards and the Employers Corporate Social Responsibility Policies.

[NOTE: the conference recognised the point 1 would need to be discussed further by the National Industrial Sector Committee to avoid it causing problems]

5 Public Sector ICT cost cutting

This Conference notes that the Cabinet Office has been pressing suppliers of ICT services to the public sector to cut the costs of their services as part of the general attack, by the Government on public sector expenditure.

Conference further notes that this has led some suppliers in our industry to attack their ICT workers in order to protect their profit margins following contract renegotiations. Staff have faced attacks on terms and conditions, redundancies and off-shoring.

Conference does not believe that workers in our industry should be forced to pay, any more than public sector workers should, for an economic crisis caused by the top bankers and others who control the global economy. We do not accept any divide between public and private sector workers in this respect.

Conference therefore resolves that the IT & Communications NISC should give full support to all members in our sector who need to take action to protect their jobs, terms, and conditions in the face of demands from the Government to reduce contract costs.

6 Solidarity

This conference recognises that as more of the jobs in our industries become increasingly commoditised and employers put more downward pressure on terms and conditions, and as union organisation grows, members in IT & Comms are increasingly likely to take industrial action in defence of their interests.

This conference recognises that members moving jobs between employers in the sector, whether voluntarily or through TUPE transfers, encourages them to see the connection between issues in different companies.

This conference believes that solidarity helps union organisation for both the givers and the receivers. Givers have the opportunity to discuss and organise around issues they might not current face, allowing them to learn and draw inspiration from campaigns in other parts of the industry or beyond. Givers can have their confidence raised by contributing to successes elsewhere. Receivers gain practical benefits from solidarity as well as having their confidence boosted.

This conference resolves that the tradition of solidarity should be strengthened by:

1) Encouraging reps and members to participate in campaigning and solidarity activities beyond their own workplace

2) Including details of how to give solidarity in sector newsletters

3) Encouraging reps to publicise disputes and campaigns amongst their members

4) Encouraging reps and members to send messages of support to disputes in other workplaces

5) Encouraging reps to organise collections for disputes

6) Encouraging members to participate in their branches and other Unite structures to raise the profile of disputes and deliver solidarity

7) Encouraging members to become delegates to local Trades Union Councils
7 Sector Structures

We note that IT & Comms has been one of the sectors where Regional Industrial Sector Committees (RISCs) have not consistently functioned well.

We note that the Rules Conference decided that the Executive Council shall “Determine one or more constitutional committees of lay members to which each officer employed by the Union shall report and be accountable and ensure that the list of these allocations is available to members”.

We resolve that the names of the officers responsible for each of the IT & Communications RISCs should be displayed on the IT & Comms area of the Unite web site, along with the dates, times and venues for forthcoming Regional Industrial Sector Conferences and Committee meetings.

We resolve that our National Officer, in consultation with the National Industrial Sector Committee, should email or write to all accountable representatives of workers in the sector explaining the role and importance of the sector structures and encouraging them to participate in the next round of Regional Industrial Sector Conferences.

We resolve that reps in each company should seek to encourage participation in the Regional Industrial Sector Conferences around the country.

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