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FUJITSU WORKERS HEAD FOR JOB LOSS SHOWDOWN

03-05-2008

Fujitsu

Workers at Solihull’s Fujitsu telecom factory where 140 jobs are threatened aren’t going down without a fight. Abigail Lawrence Jones of the Communications Workers Union explains why the plant - recently praised by Gordon Brown - must be saved.

Workers at Fujitsu's Solihull site took centre stage in the fight to preserve what is left of the West Midland's dwindling manufacturing base yesterday (Friday May 2) when voting began in an industrial action ballot over the company's plan to export production to Texas.

The result of the ballot - organised by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) after shell-shocked employees signalled their determination to fight for their jobs - will be known on May 14 .

Already, however, it looks certain that the company and its employees are headed for a bruising confrontation.

At the heart of the dispute lies Fujitsu's plans to end manufacturing at its site near the NEC by September 2008, leaving just a research and development facility.

The proposal came as a complete bolt from the blue to a workforce which has a long history of working positively and flexibly with management and immediately proved an unprecedented industrial relations flash-point - with workers at a site meeting voting 85 to one for a strike ballot.

The fury of CWU members was further exacerbated when - despite company claims that the proposed move of manufacturing work was not a "done deal" - a team from America arrived on site to start preparations for the transfer.

"While the CWU is attempting to engage positively with Fujitsu to see how work can be maintained in the UK, those facing redundancy are already witnessing people measuring up machinery and processes with a view to taking it away," said the union’s acting deputy general secretary Bill McClory.

"This has added insult to injury, and gives us real cause for concern that the 90 day 'consultation' we are now embarked upon is actually going to be a phoney consultation.

"It's bad enough that Fujitsu is even considering delivering the West Midland's manufacturing sector yet another body blow in the wake of what has happened at MG Rover, HP and Cadbury's to name but a few.

"If, as currently appears to be the case, it doesn't even have the decency to grant those loyal workers facing redundancy a genuine period of consultation I'd suggest it is treating Birmingham with nothing short of contempt."

Already the union is asking why the Birmingham plant is shouldering the brunt of redundancies when Fujitsu's own benchmarking has identified it as one of the most efficient and productive sites world-wide.

Local anger has also been exacerbated by the fact that the plan to offshore manufacturing came just weeks after Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited the site and lauded management for the way in which it is bringing in skilled workers from overseas to work on research and development projects.

"It's deeply ironic that at the same time as Fujitsu was winning government gongs for managing migration into the country it was clearly putting the finishing touches to plans to export the work currently being done by 140 local people," Bill McClory concludes.

CAN THE FUJITSU WORKERS SAVE THEIR JOBS? SHOULD THE GOVERNMENT BE DOING MORE TO HELP THEM? LEAVE A COMMENT ON THE STIRRER FORUM.
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