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Swansea IT staff to strike over outsourcing deal

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Swansea City Council's IT staff are to strike in protest against the council management's decision to outsource the support function. The ballot of the 100 staff was decisive: of the 74 votes cast, just two votes were recorded against the motion to strike.

The ballot was prompted by an advertisement in the European Business Journal inviting companies to tender for the service. Council management had not told staff of their plans.

The council insists that the deal will not mean jobs lost. In a statement issued in July it said: "IT staff will either remain in-house or will transfer to a private partner with their terms and conditions legally protected under TUPE."

Staff say these reassurances are worthless: TUPE guarantees transferred workers that they will have a job on day one of the outsourced contract; it makes no promises beyond that. Council managers are not prepared to insist on better terms for their workers either, staff say. Requests that the outsourcing deal include a clause guaranteeing minimum terms of employment for council workers have been ignored, or denied.

Mary Jones, Cabinet Member for top.performance, said in a prepared statement: "It is regrettable that ICT staff have decided to take strike action.

"The Council has not taken any decision over whether IT staff would transfer to our chosen partner or remain in-house. If they did transfer, the Council would ensure that staff had enhanced protection for their terms and conditions and nobody will lose their jobs.

"They would be allowed to remain in the Local Government Pension Scheme and would continue to work in Swansea, unless they chose to move elsewhere.

"Managers have met staff over many months to try to allay their concerns. ICT staff were invited to two meetings recently to discuss the issues with senior mangers but they chose not to attend. Managers have also met trade union representatives every fortnight."

The strike starts next Monday, and will last indefinitely. IT workers will provide no technical support once the action begins, with the exception of the Child Protection Register. A core team has been assembled that will remain on call to ensure that this system keeps running.

The union, Unison, says it wants a secondment deal, whereby staff will remain in the employ of the council but will be managed by an external contractor. ®

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