Council heads off a clash with unions in £300m deal

Sandwell Council is anticipating significant cost savings from a planned £300m, 15-year outsourcing contract that will involve phasing out 145 jobs within the next three years.

Sandwell Council is anticipating significant cost savings from a planned £300m, 15-year outsourcing contract that will involve phasing out 145 jobs within the next three years.

With 525 council workers due to be transferred to the outsourcing supplier, the West Midlands council looks to have avoided possible strike action over the move through early consultation with unions.

This resulted in an agreement that transferred staff will have the option to remain employed by the council while working for the supplier.

Under the outsourcing deal, Sandwell's contact centre, finance, human resources, IT and payroll functions are due to be outsourced, with the council expecting to sign up BT and its joint bidder Liberata next month. The partnership was named as the preferred bidder just before Christmas.

If the contract goes ahead as planned, council workers will be transferred to BT and Liberata on 1 April, but those that want to can choose to be seconded rather than become employees of the ­suppliers.

The council said, "There will be a reduction of 145 posts over the initial period of the partnership. BT and Liberata have guaranteed that there will be no compulsory redundancies."

Sandwell, a metropolitan borough council, will spend £20m a year on the contract, which represents 8.4% of its £239.5m budget for this financial year.

For its part, BT has pledged to invest some £50m in a shared services centre and in improvements to the Oracle E-Business Suite that the council uses for finance, human ­resources and payroll.

"New ICT systems will reduce the number of staff required. We have got some pretty antiquated systems at the moment that lag behind the norm," said Steve Eling, deputy leader of Sandwell Council.

The deal also requires the suppliers to move at least 450 jobs into the Sandwell area from elsewhere. Since 145 council posts are being cut, the net increase in jobs would be 305.

The council avoided a potential clash with unions over the outsourcing plan when its elected members voted to give staff a choice over how they were transferred. When Unison members voted to set up a ballot for strike action, council members decided to give affected staff the choice of being seconded.

www.computerweekly.com/outsourcing




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