The transnational corporation, Hewlett Packard has major government IT services contracts in the UK, notably with the DWP, MoD and MoJ. HP is currently carrying out a mass redundancies programme which has led to compulsory redundancy dismissal of many PCS members, with the jobs of hundreds more being threatened.
Whilst it sacks our members, HP continues to offshore work, to hire contractors and to recruit replacement workers on inferior terms and conditions through a graduate recruitment scheme.
HP is disregarding the Job Security Agreement that it signed up to in 2010, as part of the settlement of industrial action over a previous round of redundancies. It is also failing to carry out its statutory obligation under the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, to consult on redundancies with a view to seeking agreement.
PCS members in the union’s HP Group commenced official industrial action against the job cuts on 26 April 2013. A work to rule has been continuous since that date and is currently focused on banning knowledge transfer and work migration activities, where these activities would enable redundancies to be implemented. Discontinuous strike action has also taken place in April and July 2013.
In May 2013, HP supplied PCS with the statutorily specified details of proposals to sack a further 584 workers on 31 July. When the HP North West Branch Secretary, John Pearson, circulated those details to branch members, he was suspended and later dismissed on a charge of breaching company confidentiality. John was also charged with talking to a journalist about the industrial action without obtaining HP’s prior permission.
The PCS HP Group Secretary, Alan Brown wrote to HP on 7 June 2013 condemning John’s suspension as an attack on the union and demanding his reinstatement.
However, a few months later, whilst mass sackings were still taking place; the work to rule was ongoing; and John’s branch was conducting a consultative ballot on escalation of action, Alan wrote to John, on 29 November 2013, informing him that the union is no longer taking action to seek a remedy for him and that not only would John be unable to continue to hold office as Branch Secretary but that his membership of PCS was at an end forthwith.
The General Secretary, Mark Serwotka wrote to John on 10 January 2014 reaffirming the ending of union support, on the grounds that the union’s lawyers had advised that “we could not support any Employment Tribunal claim as there was no realistic prospect of securing your reinstatement” and that “neither the group nor the branch are in a position to take industrial action aimed at your reinstatement”.
Rank and file PCS activists have expressed astonishment and anger at the abandonment of support for John by union officials and are launching the John Pearson Defence Campaign, with the aim of reversing this withdrawal of support.
It is vital that the union is seen to be energetically supporting a Branch Secretary who has been sacked by an employer for standing up for members as John was. Such support should be conditioned only by the principles of trade unionism, not by opinions from the union’s solicitors. HP’s action is a serious attack on the union and must be responded to as such. The potential damage to members of the HP North West Branch, in losing their Branch Secretary (in addition to the CR dismissals of two other BEC members) at such a time cannot be overemphasised.
Please support the John Pearson Defence Campaign. A model resolution for Branch AGMs and/or Branch Executive Committees is set out below.
A fund is being set up to assist John with Tribunal fees and legal expenses and to meet the costs of the campaign. Please consider making a donation to the fund. Details will be forthcoming very shortly so please watch this space.
Model resolution for Branch AGMs and/or BECs
1) This [AGM/BEC} gives full support to John Pearson in his campaign for Hewlett Packard to reinstate him.
2) This [AGM/BEC} agrees to take a collection towards the Employment Tribunal and legal fees for John, to be paid to the ‘John Pearson Defence Campaign’.
3) This [AGM/BEC} instructs the Branch Secretary to write to the General Secretary urging the PCS nationally to:
a) Fully support John in his ET. Such support to consist of paying the ET fees, and meeting John’s legal costs, including paying for a Barrister for the ET Hearing.
b) Insist that any final settlement of the ongoing official dispute with HP shall include a ‘no victimisation’ clause and agreement on John’s reinstatement.
c) Reinstate John to full membership of the PCS until, at least such a time as the ET process is completed