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Council redefines outsourcing effects on IT staff

Bradford Council has initiated an outsourcing deal that offers an unprecedented degree of input to existing staff.

In June, the council entered into a 10-year business transformation programme worth £158m with IBM in partnership with Serco Solutions. The heart of the deal is that  IT staff can choose whether to move to the outsourcing partner or remain employed by the council. 

"The Bradford deal is not just a benchmark for public sector outsourcing, but for all outsourcing deals," said Rory Murphy, director of HR sourcing at outsourcing consultancy Morgan Chambers.

Under the contract, IBM will design and manage the transformation of selected council business management and process systems and deliver improved front-line customer services.

Projects will include new systems and processes for finance, HR, payroll, procurement, revenue, benefits and the customer contact centre, supported by extensive change management and training expertise.

Serco Solutions, formerly ITNet, will manage key council IT services, including helpdesk support, network management, desktop services, IT asset management, server management and voice systems.

The programme had been put in jeopardy by the threat of strike action from IT staff who were members of public service union Unison.

At the time, Unison said there were 40 planned redundancies in the IT department. After “frantic” last-minute negotiations, the council, suppliers and Unison struck an accord to allow staff to transfer to Serco under Tupe (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) regulations or to remain employed by the council with the choice of secondment to Serco. Staff will also have the right to transfer to Serco in the future if they wish.

The employment model guarantees that no member of IT staff will be made redundant but will instead be retrained and reskilled for employment elsewhere within the council. All responsibility for grievance and discipline, capability and attendance, restructuring, regrading and recruitment will remain with the council, not Serco.

Patrick Kerry, lead negotiator for Unison on the Bradford contract, said the deal broke the mould in IT partnering because it did not force employees to transfer to the new service partner under the Tupe legislation often used in outsourcing deals.

"This is a groundbreaking deal, and sends a clear message to the private sector that Tupe transfer is now off the table, and that secondment of public sector staff is the only way forward in any strategic partnership," he said.


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