Fujitsu staff at HMRC stage walk out over pay dispute

Fujitsu sign outside an office in Warrington, England.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fujitsu IT support staff working for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are striking today, claiming the pay rise they've been offered is far lower than that for their colleagues in Japan.

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) says that UK workers have been offered a pay rise of between 3% and 4%, while Japanese staff were awarded as much as 29%.

Around 300 staff contracted to HMRC based at Telford, Shropshire, and Stratford, East London will participate in the walk-out.

Some staff with crucial IT roles fixing HMRC computers and protecting critical high-end user systems will be taking further action from 18 January to 15 February, with workers expected to refuse overtime or do on-call work.

While HMRC has indicated that the strike action should not cause significant disruption, the union says it is likely to disrupt taxpayers aiming to complete their self-assessment tax returns by the end of the month.

"Why is it that workers in Japan are deemed worthy of a pay rise almost ten times more than those in the UK?" said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.

"Fujitsu made £22 million profit last year in the UK, so it can afford to pay our members a decent wage – it just chooses not to."

In April last year, Fujitsu raised monthly wages for employees at all levels in Japan by an average of 10%, with some getting as much as 29%.

Annual wages for employees in leadership positions rose to around 10 million yen ($67,696) or above, with senior management getting between 20 million yen ($135,392 and 30 million yen ($203,088).


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The monthly wage for new university graduates increased by 25,000 yen ($169) from the previous year to 255,000 yen ($1,726).

This, said the company, would allow it to retain and acquire talent to help it create new corporate value, adding that it sees investment in its employees as a 'top priority' for growth investment.

A spokesperson for Fujitsu told ITPro the company aims to resolve the pay dispute swiftly and will engage with staff to reach an agreement in due course. 

"Fujitsu is aware of the planned action by PCS. This follows a number of pay discussions and offers made to the PCS members. We remain committed to continue pay talks to try to resolve this situation and welcome further discussions at any time," they said.

"Fujitsu will be taking all necessary steps to ensure operational continuity for all our customers and are working closely with those customers throughout the planning process."

Fujitsu is still raking in UK government contracts

The strike action has nothing to do with the continuing Horizon scandal, in which Fujitsu's faulty Horizon IT system produced phantom transactions, leading to the prosecution of hundreds of innocent sub-postmasters.

But despite the fact that problems were known for years, the government is still awarding major contracts to Fujitsu.

In November last year, it was given a further £36 million to keep the Horizon system running until 2025, and more recently has been awarded a further contract with the Environment Agency to handle flood alerts until December next year, at a cost of £2 million.

All in all, the company is believed to have received £6.8 billion in government contracts since 2012.

"Why is the UK government giving Fujitsu lucrative contracts when the company treats its UK workers so badly?" Serwotka said.

"Our government should be standing up for our members, demanding a fair pay rise in line with Japanese workers."

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.