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HP faces first ever UK strike action

Big name customers could suffer if staff walk out

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HP faces possible strike action from some of its employees in the UK, after trade union Unite announced a vote among its 150 customer engineers, whose jobs are being shifted to a subsidiary firm.

If the strike gets the go-ahead, it will be the first of its kind at HP, which in the past two years has undergone dramatic job culls in a move to cut costs at the computer vendor.

Unite said in a statement that it had begun a ballot that covers home-based customer engineers and support specialists who operate across the UK for HP.

Staff are angry about being shunted over to HP’s subsidiary company HP CDS at the start of next month. Unite claimed the computer giant is removing pay and pension benefits, including a performance bonus scheme worth up to £2,000 and a final salary pension scheme.

"This is HP's highest level of support for its biggest customers - and they're going to be seriously hacked off if there is a strike. It is staggering how the engineers are staying positive when they're being treated like garbage," an ex-HP insider told The Register.

The union said it had served HP seven days notice of the ballot, which kicks off today. The outcome of the vote will be announced in the middle of November, added Unite.

Unite said it had asked workers to vote after a consultative ballot at the start of October came out in support of HP workers downing tools. The computer maker employs around 18,000 staff in the UK.

"Our members face cuts to their pay and pensions and have no choice other than to begin an industrial action ballot,” said Unite national officer Peter Skyte.

“This is the latest in a series of attacks by the company on our members' pay and conditions, while senior executives and shareholders do very well indeed.”

He added that the union was willing to talk to HP to “seek a resolution to this dispute... but not on the basis that one employee’s pay cut results in an HP executive’s pay and bonus increase.”

A HP company spokesman echoed Unite's stance on looking for ways of settling the spat to avoid action.

"HP respects the rights of its employees to be part of a union. We will evaluate the situation as soon as the result of the local ballot is available. We will continue to maintain a dialogue with the union in an attempt to avoid any form of industrial action," he told El Reg. ®

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