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Bradford IT staff vote to strike

Council would 'grind to a halt'

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Public services in Bradford could be crippled causing widespread disruption if a proposed strike by IT staff goes ahead later this month.

IT workers voted in favour of industrial action following concerns over Bradford Council's plan to privatise its IT department.

Although the council's plans are still at an early stage with a contract winner not expected to be named until the summer, workers are concerned about what might happen. Such is the strength of feeling, more than 90 per cent of those balloted by public sector union, Unison, voted for strike action.

The 100 or so staff who work in the IT department are worried that any move to bring in private finance to run the service will put their jobs and pay-and-conditions in jeopardy.

Unison accepts that if the strike goes ahead it would see the council's business "grind to a halt". A 48 hour strike by all IT staff is due to begin on January 29 with a further seven days of action by data room staff expected to go-ahead from February 2.

Unison regional officer Chris Jenkinson,is meeting IT staff today to plan the proposed strike action.

In a statement Mr Jenkinson said: "The ballot shows there is overwhelming support for strike action which would have huge implications for the council. The authority would be unable to carry out many of its basic duties, including paying housing benefits.

"Our members are deeply worried that a private company would set about slashing wages and conditions to maximise profits. They want to remain as council employees and be seconded to any private company brought in to run the service."

He added that Bradford's IT department was "not a failing service" and that staff had worked hard to keep it running, despite "chronic under-funding". He explained that the ballot showed the "strength of feeling" among staff.

Jenkinson said he hoped a settlement would be reached, but issued this warning: "A strike would see the council's business grind to a halt and we hope this can be resolved before it is necessary to take this action.

"But if there are no guarantees forthcoming our members have said loud and clear that they will be forced to strike to protect their employment prospects."

Council leaders held meetings last night to discuss the prospect of strike action and are expected to respond later today. ®

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