Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Hewlett Packard suspends Branch Secretary for representing PCS members!

Industrial action by PCS members at Hewlett Packard has been resumed after compulsory redundancy notices were issued last month. About 50 PCS members, at Lytham St. Annes, Newcastle and Sheffield, were amongst approximately a hundred who received notice at these sites, where IT services are provided for the Department of Work & Pensions. Many more have taken voluntary redundancy.

Shortly before the sackings took place, HP had given notice of imposition of its 1.6% pay offer. The long running dispute, which had previously seen a one day strike on 29th April, is over both the 2013 pay claim for PCS members covered by collective bargaining and job security. HP has declared its intention to concentrate work at ‘strategic delivery hubs’, at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Erskine, Scotland with its other sites being run down. It is also sacking permanent staff whilst continuing to recruit in large numbers, graduates on lower rates of pay.

There is controversy too, over HP’s receipt from the Scottish Government of a £7 million Regional Selective Assistance grant. The company had told the funding authority, Scottish Enterprise, that the grant money would go towards investment in creating 720 new jobs. The union claims that HP is merely moving to Erskine, work that was previously done by the people whom it is sacking on its English sites.
Two further days of strike action took place on 24th and 25th July and a work to rule resumed from 26th July.

Meanwhile, the Branch Secretary of the PCS HP North West Branch, John Pearson, remains suspended, charged with breaching company confidentiality by sending details of the redundancy selection job pools to his branch's members. 

On 4th July, John received a warning from a HR manager that he risked disciplinary action if he accepted invitations to represent members in grievance and disciplinary cases. He has now received an instruction to attend a disciplinary meeting on Wednesday 7th August. The letter conveying the instruction to attend the disciplinary meeting contained details of a second charge :

"Failure to follow HP and client policies and processes in respect of press interviews : On 22 April, you were quoted in a Tech Week Europe article and referenced HP's work on the launch of the Universal Credit, part of its DWP account. No prior permission was sought from either HP or the DWP, contrary to HP's Confidentiality Policy and the DWP publicity request process".

The second charge illustrates perhaps even more clearly than the first that HP is aiming to destroy the very concept of an independent trade union, requiring elected officers to seek the employer's permission to talk to the press on matters affecting their members.

In view of this attack on the union, it is a cause for concern that, in the apparently simple matter of publicising on the union’s official website a brief article on John’s case calling for messages of solidarity and support for an online petition  to the Managing Director of HP, there has been several weeks of bureaucratic delay.

Messages of support should be sent to : pcs_nw@hotmail.com

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