Union threatens Shell with legal action
Grumbles over reduced pay-off deal for IT workers
Royal Dutch Shell faces legal action from trade union Unite over the terms of its redundancy package, a week after telling staff that more than 3,000 IT jobs were to be outsourced at the firm.
A leaked memo that appeared on an anti-Shell website last week revealed that staff at the oil giant had been told of the firm's plans to shift 3,200 IT jobs offshore in a cash-saving exercise.
Unite, the union previously known as Amicus, has complained that Shell's redundancy package is inadequate.
Graham Tran, Unite regional officer in Aberdeen where Shell is headquartered, told The Register that Shell had massively cut its maximum pay-off in June last year from £200,000 per employee to £50,000.
He said the union had hoped to convince Shell to reinstate its original company redundancy package before it signs contracts with outsourcing outfits EDS, AT&T and T-systems, which is expected to happen in March this year.
But Tran, who is meeting with Shell representatives this afternoon, reckoned the likelihood of that happening was slim. He warned: "We have a very strong voice and, if Shell doesn't want to wake up to it then we'll see them in court."
Unite is also disputing Shell's claim that the previous £200,000 redundancy package only applied to offshore oil rig workers and not IT staff.
Tran said that, aside from any immediate lay-offs, he also wanted the oil multinational to safeguard the interests of UK employees who could be shifted over to a new company under the outsourcing deal.
"Guys that have done nothing other than deliver profits to the company have been dumped in the water," said Tran.
Shell, which does not recognise the union, was not available for comment at time of writing. ®
I think that the corporations, the government, and everyone else needs to remember how unionisation actually works: a LARGE number of people down tools and picket significant sites. Thats a union. It doesn't matter whether a company 'recognises' that union or not; the action still takes place, disruption is caused and the corporations and government lose money.
Now, in most cases, such action is fairly minimal, with a disruption to a specific area of business or corporation, and tends to be little more than an inconvienience, but consider the implications of a national strike of IT personnel. Such an action would dwarf even the miners strike during the eighties and be far more effective.
We're often expected to work excessive hours, often on low-end pay (especially pertinent to service centre staff, such as helpdesk analysts who are compared to call-centre staff for purposes of salary calculations), we are cheated out of bonuses whilst our employers report 'record profits', we are expected to meet internal KPI's and external SLA's which are often in contradiction with each other, we are cajoled by middle-management often with no knowledge of IT, we carry the blame for failure but rarely the recognition of success, our jobs are out-sourced and moved overseas to avoid TUPE regulations, and we are NOT represented as an industry at even a local level, let alone nationally. Consequently, we, alongside the much harrased call-centre worker, are treated as the cotton mill workers of the 21st century, and I, for one, am considering chucking my sabot into the gears on a near daily basis.
I think its about time that we had a union specifically intended to represent IT staff in the UK, and the so-called 'Fat cats' should be very afraid of that.
Unions may indeed be 'de-fanged' these days (after all, they are now seen as 'business partners' to the corporations, and are hung up on politics and profits in the same way as the coporations themselves), but that doesn't mean that action cannot, and will not, be taken.
My message to the IT industry: treat us fairly or face the consequences. It's only a matter of time.
PS I am posting anonymously for fear of professional repurcussions, which is a fine indicator of the climate!
Cheer Up Chris
I think Chris Cheale's comments "Non-union employees" are a bit out of date. Many people working today DON'T remember the 80s.
Because people are increasingly sick of being used, abused then dumped - and of the continual pressure to work longer and harder for less - I think people are increasingly willing to take action as a last resort.
Look at what UNITE achieved in Fujitsu (http://www.ourunion.org.uk/news) with the action there last year.
Not being a union member means allowing some unelected fat-cats to decide your fate without even trying to have a say.
The Outsourcing Myth
As a union rep in local government I agree with the above comments but whether it is because Local Government, National Health, MOD etc,etc have outsourced and PFI'ed and found that the cost has not justified the means. Example our authority outsourced to CAPITA their salaries department, in the first year the cost to the rate payers was in excess of £1 million over budget and over the 5 year period was many millions over budget. It has now been taken back in house again.
The company you outsource to has to make a profit and to cut the cost (not the profit) something has to give and that is usualy the service to the customer or service user, usualy both so in effect you get less for the same price, or even more less at a cheaper price, you will never get the value as you had before.
Not really - dear ol' Maggie Thatcher defanged the unions almost totally whilst at the same time instilling the "me me me" attitude in everyone (remember the 80's?).
The twofold effect is brilliant - people won't strike because they loose the pay (even union members) and because people won't strike the unions don't have any negotiating power. Ask an old-skool member of the UCU (NatFHE) or PCS unions.
In fact, outsourcing is the best way to fire people - you don't have to justify making someone redundant (it's the job that's going rather than the person specifically) so you just get shot of everyone at once then when the outsourcing fails you blame the outsourcing company and you're in the clear to create those positions anew with all new people doing the old jobs, for less money and worse contracts. It really does save money in the long run.
Sometimes I wonder when I became so cynical.
There's a technical term for employees who aren't members of a union. That term is "idiot".