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By | Mark Ballard 9th May 2007 06:02

Union members blink in Capgemini face-off

Nerds shy away from confrontation

Staff at Capgemini UK have told their union to settle the next pay offer with bosses before it gets to another showdown over strike action.

In a ballot of unionised staff working on the firm's flagship £8bn Aspire contract for HM Revenue & Customs, 82.5 per cent backed a below inflation pay offer negotiated under the threat of strike action by the union last month.

The result shows what little appetite IT workers at the firm had for industrial action in the first place, though they had threatened to down tools after being offered a 2.35 per cent annual pay rise.

Staff who were outsourced to Capgemini with the HMRC contract in 2004 were not prepared for another stand-off, said Graham Steele, national organiser at the Public and Commercial Services Union, which won them a rise of 0.65 points on the base offer.

"They would like to see us resolve these things through negotiation," he said.

Union leaders had been aware they had enough energy to play hard ball with Capgemini for only one brief round.

Steele said outsourced staff were now asking the union for "more effective representation" - i.e. that didn't require them to stick their heads above the parapet.

Yet union membership outside of the stronghold of former civil servants has doubled in the last year to about 600. The rest joined since the union's Trojan horse was TUPED across in 2004. Capgemini won't recognise these in a collective pay agreement until either it blesses them, or their numbers significantly increase.

Meanwhile, the union has opened negotiations to improve the lot of the TUPED staff some more. It is reviewing their job grades after some staff complained their civil service grades had been shoe-horned into inappropriate equivalents.

It has also opened talks on equal pay with employers throughout the IT sector. Staff had complained that new recruits were paid more if they were men, that men's salaries rose faster than women's, and that those differences could be widened among staff transferred from the public sector, where men where more likely to be already sitting in the top posts.

Steele said it the PCS was talking to "all the major IT companies".

"We're now looking at mechanisms at closing that gap with[in] Capgemini and other IT companies," he said. ®

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