Talks needed – not name calling, CWU tells Ericsson

Telecoms & Financial Services, Ericsson

Bosses at Ericsson are being urged by the CWU to reflect seriously on the overwhelming rejection of a “paltry and insulting” pay offer that would result in eight out of ten employees receiving nothing at all.

Following last week’s union ballot result – which saw 97 per cent of those polled reject Ericsson’s current pay offer, and 91 per cent express a willingness to take industrial action to secure a better one – the CWU has been urging the company to listen to its employees and return to the negotiating table in a bid to avert a damaging industrial relations showdown.

Yet, instead of giving any substantive signal of a willingness to compromise, the company has instead embarked on an internal propaganda campaign to try to persuade its employees that their elected representatives are misrepresenting Ericsson UK Ltd’s profitability and “putting at risk all of our futures”.

Talks aren’t scheduled to resume until September 12 – but in an extraordinary briefing issued to staff on Monday the company’s head of Field Service Operations (FSO) UK, Philip Moreau, told of his “disappointment to see that a number of employees in the FSO who are union members and who voted in the ballot decided to believe the picture being presented by Prospect and CWU.”

Responding to that communication, CWU assistant secretary Allan Eldred was unequivocal. “If the company wants to get into name calling that’s entirely up to them. We will be considering if we want to respond in kind – but paramount to us will be looking for a solution.” he told Ericsson UK’s HR team.

Urging members not to be swayed by veiled threats that are clearly designed to draw attention away from the fact that Ericsson UK Ltd is a profitable part of an albeit troubled group, Allan continues: “For the company to now be implying that the CWU and Prospect are ‘facing the other way’ while Rome burns is patently ridiculous.

“During successive negotiations with management we’ve made it very clear that we understand the challenges that the wider group faces – and that has been reflected in our willingness to recommend below-inflation pay rises to members in recent years.

“We also know, however, that – despite its protestations – Ericsson UK has consistently posted decent results – and ultimately a time comes when it becomes unrealistic for workers generating profits in the UK to be asked to endure further cuts in their living standards to ameliorate the company’s problems elsewhere.”

Allan concludes: “Sadly it currently seems as if management are intent on questioning the judgement of our members and that has to stop if a solution is to be found.

“In Monday’s staff briefing management even suggested that the CWU and Prospect don’t have any concern for the 20 per cent of FSO employees who are currently paid below the ‘benchmark’ for the jobs they conduct – and that simply isn’t true.

“Of course we believe those that even the company has identified as being paid below the benchmark should receive an  increase – but what Ericsson is effectively saying is that you have to be underpaid to receive  any pay rise at all!

“We also have profound reservations about the fairness of Ericsson’s ‘benchmarking’ in the first place – because our understanding is that benchmarking companies routinely exclude the wage levels paid by the employer they are conducting the comparison for.

“Because of Ericsson’s dominance in running the field organisations for all of the UK’s largest mobile companies, including Virgin, O2 and EE, the implication would be that the vast majority of mobile industry field engineers are excluded from the benchmarking calculation…casting profound questions over precisely which field engineers our members’ salaries are being compared against.

“If, as we suspect, they are generally being compared against non-mobile industry field engineers – gas fitters and fridge engineers for example – the comparison is, we’d suggest, pretty worthless.

“The CWU is looking for solutions to the current situation but the company has to understand that a pay offer that gives 80 per cent of our members in FSO no rise whatsoever is unacceptable and our members clearly support that view.”