Fujitsu and the Unite union are to hold talks at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, in an effort to solve an angry staff dispute and avoid further strikes.
Talks are due to start today (Monday), with the independent advisory service looking to break the deadlock in the dispute.
The dispute concerns redundancies, a pay freeze, as well as the closure of workers' final salary pension scheme.
Several hundred compulsory redundancies due this week will be put on hold, at least while the two sides thrash out their differences at ACAS.
Union members called the meeting a “welcome” development, though insisted they did not know yet what the proposals would be. The union urged its members to continue the strikes in order to put pressure on the company during the talks. Fujitsu confirmed the meeting was taking place but did not comment further.
The next strikes will take place on today, Monday 1 February and Friday 5, as well as the following Monday.
The move to bring in a conciliation service reflects the great difficulty the parties have had reaching any agreement, as well as the increasing importance Fujitsu attaches to finding a solution quickly as stikes continue to hit its work.
The union has also posed questions over whether Fujitsu was discriminating against women and staff from ethnic minority backgrounds in its choice of those targeted for redundancy. Fujitsu strongly rejects any question of discrimination and said it always acted in the interests of equal opportunities.
The strikes have targeted work on a number of high profile contracts, including with Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, the Home Office, HM Revenue & Customs, the Financial Services Authority, and the Post Office. Fujitsu two weeks ago was awarded preferred bidder status on an estimated £1 billion desktop infrastructure contract, at the Department for Work and Pensions.