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Trade unions across Europe have won changes to the law giving workers more rights to be consulted about a number of decisions affecting their employment. You have a legal right to be consulted over redundancies, transfers from one company to another, and over Health & Safety matters.
These rights have been extended by the implementation of the European Directive on Information and Consultation.
This legislation introduced "works councils" (bodies where workers' representatives meet management) to encourage more general consultation with the workforce. Because the last Tory government opted out of the "social chapter", Britain was not covered by this legislation to begin with. However, ICL set up a European Works Council (called the European Consultative Forum, or ECF) back in 1995. ICL set up the ECF early to get in before the legislation came into effect in Europe in September 1996.
In 2000, after Britain signed up to the social chapter, ICL set up a UK version - the UK Consultative Forum or UKCF. The European Consultative Form (ECF) changed into the Fujitsu Services Consultative Forum (FSCF), which is meant to cover the whole company, but HR have so far failed to implement this.
Because Fujitsu Services doesn't yet recognise unions to represent all staff throughout the company, the company has often struggled to meet its legal obligations to consult with its workforce. The UKCF is a mechanism Fujitsu Services can use to meet some of its obligations. However, considerable work remains to be done to create a culture where employees are properly and consistently consulted.
Union members have fared very well in elections to the UKCF, reflecting the added contribution a UKCF rep can make with union organisation to support them. The UKCF discusses a wide range of issues from redundancies, health & safety, and contract changes to site relocations.
The trade unions want to make sure that these forums don't just become a legal fig-leaf for the company, a talking shop, or a rubber stamp. We want to use them to increase workplace democracy, and to make sure every employee has a say in their future.
We want to improve communications between employees and UKCF reps, as well as between the reps and management. The union networks are a useful supplement to the UKCF web site, to keep employees informed.
The FSCF and UKCF don't take decisions, and they are not there to allow workers' representatives to negotiate with the company. They are purely for information and consultation. Genuine consultation requires the company to give information in advance, and to listen and take account of employees' views BEFORE reaching decisions. The unions are keen to ensure that these forums are as effective and meaningful as possible.
The Fujitsu Services Consultative Forum (and its predecessor the ECF) have existed since 1995 - you can find reports of their meetings on the FSCF community on CafeVIK (via the Fujitsu Services Intranet). It has delegates from all round the company. The international body concentrates on issues spanning several countries, such as the direction of the company, major reorganisations, financial issues etc.
The UKCF is the UK-only equivalent of the FSCF. In the past, the FSCF reps from the UK automatically sat on the UKCF, along with a number of directly elected delegates. All UKCF reps are directly elected, and the FSCF reps are elected by and from the UKCF. The UKCF generally considers issues significantly affecting employees in the UK. The UK forms such a big part of the Fujitsu Services workforce that the UKCF is an important body. The UK Consultative Forum has been in operation since 2000 - you can find reports of their meetings etc. here.
The FSCF and UKCF are not going to change the way Fujitsu Services works overnight. However, the unions have been building up pressure for less secrecy, and for more democracy and accountability at work for some time. We see making the FSCF and the UKCF more effective as a step along this road.
At the very least, if the FSCF and UKCF bypass some of the barriers to communication in the Fujitsu Services structure, this is a good thing.
For employees to have a really effective voice, we need more than consultation. We need independent organisation, negotiation, and campaigning. Forums like the FSCF and UKCF can be useful, but are no substitute for effective trade union organisation.
On occasion, the UKCF has played a major role in protecting employee interests. Union and non-union members usually work together. However, where it proves impossible to reach a satisfactory resolution, reps who are not union members have few options. They can't turn to a union-funded solicitor for advice. How could they fund and launch legal action to protect your interests, if that was necessary? Employee interests are best protected if union and Consultative Forum structures work together in close co-operation. These are all reasons why electing union members to represent you makes sense.
Now that every Fujitsu Services employee has the right to be represented by their trade union in grievance or disciplinary matters, every employee needs to be IN a trade union to take advantage of that right.
UNITE (formerly Unite) has worked together with the PCS union and the UNISON union, which also have members in Fujitsu Services, to identify trade unionists standing in the 2007 UKCF elections. We've identified good candidates who we hope will have the support of all employees.
For these elections, the company has created new constituencies. The definitions are posted on the UK Consultative Forum community on CafeVIK.
The unions are encouraging employees to support the following candidates:
Of course, if these members are elected, they will be representing all staff in their constituencies, not just the union members.Get in touch with your local union rep/contact or the candidates if you want to help with the election campaign, or get involved with a union in other ways.
Voting is planned to take place during November. Every UK employee of Fujitsu Services should receive a paper voting paper or an email telling them how to vote electronically. We are checking with HR who people should contact with balloting problems, but assume it should be Electoral Reform Services (http://www.erbs.co.uk).
The election is by Single Transferable Vote (STV) - see http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/votingsystems/systems3.htm#STV if you want to know more. They key thing is that you have to place the candidates in order of preference - 1 or top being your favourite. We encourage you to put the union-backed candidate(s) top of your list in any order you like, then vote for as many or few of the other candidates as you want.
We've not got a monopoly on ideas, but how about: