Computacenter IT staff working for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be going on strike tomorrow in a dispute over pay.

Around 30 employees, members of the Public and Commercial Services union, are taking industrial action after Computacenter offered a “derisory” 0.4 percent pay increase – equal to £109 extra a year. The affected employees worked for the HSE in 1995 before being transferred to Computacenter.

A pay rise was due for employees in January, but negotiations have been taking place since then after Computacenter initially said it could not offer anything in response to the union’s demand for a three percent increase, citing the difficult economic situation. The union normally negotiates an annual pay increase around the Retail Price Index, that is, inflation rates.

Following a series of negotiations with PCS, Computacenter then offered a pay increase of around £50 a year, before ending up with an offer of 0.4 percent – a meagre amount compared to last year’s 2.5 percent pay rise.  

On the back of this pay offer, PCS members based in Bootle, in Merseyside, will begin an overtime ban and work to rule from today, 28 September, which will affect the maintenance and daily operation of the HSE’s IT system.

“We decided on an overtime ban because the company relies quite heavily on overtime,” said Jayson Sloss, PCS negotiations officer.

“The industrial action will continue until the employer comes back to the table to renegotiate a settlement or the employees decide they want to do something else. According to the union, its members rejected the pay offer unanimously.

Sloss said: “Our members understandably rejected this insulting offer unanimously. They have worked hard, often under difficult circumstances, and ensured healthy and profitable returns to the company on this contract.

“We remain committed to reaching a negotiated settlement, but the company’s response so far has been to threaten legal action rather than discuss a resolution.”

Sloss explained that Computacenter had challenged an initial ballot for industrial action, which produced a majority of ‘yes’ votes, on a technicality issue relating to how quickly the company should be notified of the ballot results. This led to a second ballot, which Sloss said resulted in even more votes, and more ‘yes’ votes.

A spokesperson for Computacenter said: "The 2009 pay award, to which this refers, reflected the difficult market conditions we faced, yet afforded some increase at a time when the pay of the majority of Computacenter’s UK staff, including senior management, was frozen.

"We always endeavour to offer pay increases where possible, but long term job security is also a key part of our pay strategy. As the 2009 pay award remains unresolved we are unable to comment further regarding awards for this year."

The IT industry has been in a number of strike talks this year, including BT, Siemens staff at the BBC and HP staff at the Department for Work and Pensions.