The threat of strike action by IT staff at Bradford Council over an outsourcing deal could encourage staff at other local authorities to take similar action over separate outsourcing projects, a union official has warned.
Around 135 IT staff at Bradford Council, members of both the Unison and GMB unions, started a ballot for strike action this week in response to the council’s plan to transfer them to the successful bidder for a 10-year, £100m IT outsourcing contract. The result of the strike ballot is expected on 16 January.
The three bidders for the Bradford contract, known as Bradford-i, are Atos KPMG, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and a joint bid from IBM and ITNet. The council plans to award the contract in March.
IT staff want the option of continuing to work for the council once the contract is awarded, or be offered secondment places with the private company where appropriate.
Gurjit Singh, chair of the Bradford Unison branch said he had been in contact with a number of other staff union representatives in other parts of the UK, who were considering similar action as a result of new IT projects.
“Unison branches in south Wales and north Yorkshire, for example, have been in touch with us about the problem, and they may also consider action in response to similar circumstances,” he said.
“Our staff, who are largely well experienced, have been loyal to the council over the years and they wish to continue in the public sector. There are concerns, for instance, about what happens when the proposed contract ends.”
Singh said the council had told the union it was obliged to transfer the staff in line with transfer of undertakings (protection of employment) legislation (TUPE).
But the union has disputed this, and claims that the option of secondment to a supplier has been offered in other council outsourcing deals, such as Liverpool Council and BT.
Bradford councillor Simon Cooke, executive member for corporate and regeneration, said the council “would continue to talk to union representatives and staff”.