HP and EDS workers protest job cuts

HP is under fire from its workers' union and today faces protests across the UK.

According to union Unite, HP and its recently-purchased outsourcing arm EDS are cutting 3,400 UK jobs in the next two years, citing the weak economy as the reason.

Unite planned protests for this morning at the HP/EDS headquarters in east London and one at lunchtime at offices in Bristol, accusing the tech firms of using the credit crunch as an excuse to unnecessarily cut jobs.

Peter Skyte, Unite's national officer, told IT PRO that this morning's event consisted of a few dozen union officials and HP/EDS employees in front of the lobby of the company's London headquarters. "It wasn't a mass demonstration," he explained. "Just lobbying people going into work."

"This is a highly successful company looking to increase its profits further," Skyte said. "The workforce is being sacrificed."

Unite said it was "outrageous" that so many employees were losing their jobs when HP's profits rose 15 per cent last year and chief executive Mark Hurd's salary jumped 31 per cent.

"We want to see them develop long-term plans, rather than short term slash and burn cost-cutting," said Skyte.

A spokeswoman for HP said in a statement: "HP is aware of limited union activities at specific European HP and EDS sites due to concerns about the workforce management activities related to the HP integration of EDS announced on 15 September 2008." The statement added that HP was working with the European Works Council to resolve redundancy-related issues.

The union also suggested that the job cuts could lead to "stress-related illnesses" in remaining employees, with "skeleton levels of staff" struggling with an extra workload.

Skyte also criticised HP for keeping 2,000 contractors on in the UK alone, while cutting full-time staff. "So many contractors and temporary staff is simply adding insult to injury to staff [being cut]," he said.

Another concern for HP and EDS could be on the client side. Skyte said he was picking up word from the union's members that customers were concerned that services could be negatively affected. "We've heard rumours that some customers and clients may be expressing their disquiet," he said, stressing that it was all just speculation at this stage.

In its statement, HP said: "HP has taken appropriate and necessary steps to ensure business continuity of service and operations for our customers and clients throughout the period of the protests."

Protests are also planned across Europe in Austria, Belgium, Italy, Spain, France and Germany, Unite said.