HP And Fujitsu Staff Strike Over Job Cuts

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Staff at computer companies HP and Fujitsu are striking over ongoing job cuts and pay freezes, but surveys show that things won’t improve before the second quarter

More than 1,000 HP employees at the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) are on strike today, after negotiations over pay and job losses collapsed. Workers have set up picket lines in Newcastle, Washington, Preston and the Fylde Coast.

The Public and Commercial Services union explained that HP has cut around 3,400 staff since the company acquired outsourcing specialist Electronic Data Systems (EDS) 2008. Another 1,000 redundancies are planned during the first four months of this year, the union claimed.

“Strike action is not a step that our members take lightly,” said union secretary Mark Serwotka. “They have worked hard to help the company deliver fourth quarter revenues of $30.8 billion, yet have been slapped in the face with job losses and a pay freeze for two years running. The company needs to start valuing staff and recognise the crucial part they play in its success by giving guarantees on job security and a fair pay rise.” 

HP said it was disappointed that employees had voted to take industrial action. “A reasonable offer was put on the table by HP, in response to the union’s requests, however this was rejected without a counter offer being proposed by the union,” the company said. 

Meanwhile, staff at Fujitsu are extending their strike action for five more days over planned cuts to jobs and pension schemes. Union Unite is also representing Fujitsu employees in the House of Commons, after the company announced plans to cut 70 staff by the end of January and closed the final salary pension scheme – effectively cutting members’ salaries by 20 percent.

The union is also lobbying to end the pay freeze at Fujitsu, which it is bringing in despite profits of £177 million last year. The company has threatened Unite with an injunction, in an attempt to ban the strike.

“Fujitsu should be focusing on serious negotiations with Unite rather than shooting itself in the foot by spending money on expensive lawyers in a fruitless and ultimately counterproductive attempt to use the law instead of the jaw,” said Peter Skyte, Unite national officer for IT and communications. “We still believe that this dispute can only be resolved by Fujitsu sitting down with us to address the issues of jobs, pay and pensions.”

Earlier this month, a survey by Robert Half Technology found that more than 40 percent of CIOs considered their departments to be understaffed. The poll also found that, while IT budgets should increase in 2010, full-time jobs with benefits are expected to be harder to come by in the first quarter.

“Many companies have cut technology staff levels too deeply, making it challenging for IT departments to keep pace with demands,” said Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology at the time. “Although businesses may be able to operate with stretched teams in the short term, being perpetually understaffed isn’t sustainable and can detract from the overall productivity and morale of the organisation.”

A more optimistic study by CareerBuilder found that more than a third of information technology employers will be hiring full-time employees in 2010, while existing employees will be keeping their jobs and receiving salary increases. The survey claimed that 63 percent of employers plan t increase existing employee salaries by 3 percent.

However, CareerBuilder CEO Matt Ferguson warned that employers still remain cautious in regards to their hiring. “We’re headed in the right direction but should not expect to see actual job growth until at least Q2 2010,” he added.

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