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Fujitsu staff may strike over attempts to cut pension cash

By Symon Ross

Published 04/08/2009

Staff at Fujitsu Services in Northern Ireland are to be balloted about industrial action over changes to pay and pensions, the Unite union has announced.

Unite will hold a consultative ballot over Fujitsu’s plans to close its defined benefit pension scheme, which would affect up to 2,000 of its members.

It said 4,000 of the company’s 12,000 UK employees, who are in its main pension plan, will lose out under the firm’s plan to close the scheme to future accrual.

If the proposal goes ahead, the company intends to dismiss employees after the end of the consultation period in September, and offer them employment on new contracts which are unchanged except in relation to pensions, it said.

The union estimates the proposed pension change would reduce the total pay package of each employee by at least 15%.

A spokesman for the company, which has 700 staff in Northern Ireland, said the consultation period is still taking place and no decisions had been made.

However, Joanne McWilliams, Unite regional industrial organiser, IT and communications, said: “Fujitsu Services is a highly profitable and successful company which is seeking to take advantage of the recession to attack pay, pensions and conditions.

“The company is indicating a willingness to constructively consider alternative pension options identified by representatives.

“We are insisting that the company should increase pay and provide decent pensions for all its employees.

“Our position is to protect the defined benefit pension scheme.

“Any changes which reduce financial risk to the company at the expense of members should be compensated for accordingly.”

Fujitsu is not the only major company planning to close defined benefit or final salary schemes, which guarantee to pay a retirement income based on a percentage of an employee’s salary every year for the rest of their life.

IBM and Barclays are among the big names looking to end the schemes, which they say are costing too much due to longer life expectancy, low inflation, falling stock markets and an increased regulatory burden.

In 2007 Fujitsu announced an £18m investment in a new managed IT services centre, to which Invest NI contributed £5.7m, which was to have resulted in a total of 400 new jobs by the end of 2009 — 328 in Londonderry and 74 in Belfast.

The spokesman said the company has 160 people in Londonderry and is still recruiting, with 400 remaining its target.

In May last year it announced another £9m investment — for which Invest NI contributed £2m — and another 150 jobs that will take its total workforce in Northern Ireland to more than 900 employees.

Belfast Telegraph

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