IT staff at Bradford Council have agreed to suspend plans for strike action until next month, following 11-hour talks with council officials.
Earlier this month, Unison members among the council’s 135 IT staff voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action in response to Bradford’s £100m outsourcing plan. The staff want the option of continuing to work for the authority once the contract is awarded, or to be offered secondment to the successful private sector bidder.
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Councillor Simon Cooke, deputy leader of Bradford Council, said, “[The delay to strike action] will allow us to continue working with trade union representatives and bidders to find a solution that meets the needs of the people of the district but also addresses the genuine concerns of staff.”
But Roger Barber, senior consultant at outsourcing consultancy Morgan Chambers, said the dispute underlined the importance of winning staff support for an outsourcing deal from the outset.
“It shouldn’t have got to this stage in the first place - this highlights the importance of consultation and communication at the earliest possible stage, and this should be continuous,” he said.
Gurjit Singh, chairman of the Bradford Unison branch, warned that any industrial action by IT staff would have a major impact on local services. “It’s going to have a large effect on council tax collections and housing benefit payments - there will be no one to process the money coming in and going out.”
The three contenders for the 10-year, £100m 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 July.
Some local government IT staff have already been seconded to the private sector elsewhere in the UK. About 750 workers, including 200 IT professionals, were seconded to BT as part of Liverpool City Council’s joint venture deal with the telecoms firm, signed in 2001.