HP fined for disrupted work, union claims

Pensioners and child benefit customers sent letters with wrong information

HP has been fined for not meeting service level targets due to a two-day strike last week, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union claimed as it considered fresh strikes.

"We believe they had to pay a number of fines for not meeting targets," said national officer Jim Hanson, who claimed work for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was most affected.

"Systems were not coming up on time. For example, we understand that FRAIMS, the benefit fraud system, was unavailable for a few hours," he said. Hanson also said that some letters were sent out to pensioners and child benefit customers containing the wrong information.

But an HP spokesperson said: "The strike did not delay any commitments to the clients."

HP added that it did not increase its use of subcontractors or contractors during the 48-hour strike.

The industrial dispute centres on pay freezes, as well as on the 3,400 EDS staff who have been made redundant since HP took over the company in 2008, and the 1,000 job losses planned for the first half of the year. The strikes last week took place as non-IT workers in the civil service, also in the PCS union, staged simultaneous high-profile action affecting a range of central government and judicial services.

Those taking part in the strike included staff working for HP Enterprise Services in Newcastle, Washington, Preston and the Fylde Coast. As well as the DWP, the strike action affected work at the Ministry of Defence, and car manufacturer Vauxhall.

The union said it was waiting for an improved offer from HP on jobs and pay freezes. It will be advising members today to plan for another two-day strike as "encouragement" if HP does not come up with "an acceptable offer", Hanson said.

"We are going out to our members to consult about further industrial action," he said. "We have had no fresh offer from HP. We have had no contact with them since last week."

The dispute between PCS and HP has been going on since December 2009, when HP narrowly avoided a strike by union members by agreeing to sit down to talks at the eleventh hour.

After a one-day strike in January, Hanson said the union had had a couple of meetings with the mediation organisation Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), but that HP "wasn't willing to move far enough."

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