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1,000 workers rally behind Swansea IT strikers

Council claims union 'holding people of Swansea to ransom'

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Around a thousand people attended a demonstration in support of striking IT workers in Swansea this lunchtime, with 500 people marching through the city centre before meeting up with colleagues for a rally.

One marcher told us: "The demo was extremely well attended. It was a rally of supprt for IT staff and a reaffirmation of the union's stand against the privatisation of public sector service. This show of support is an example to all public sector workers across the country that public services should remain public."

One hundred IT workers at Swansea council are in their fourth week of industrial action over plans to outsource the local authority's IT department to a private firm as part of a new service@swansea e-government initiative. Staff are concerned that if the department it outsourced to a private company, other council functions could also be privatised.

As a result of these concerns, 5,000 Unison union staff at the council are to be balloted for industrial action, in what officials fear could lead to a damaging escalation of disruption. Swansea Council today accused Unison of "holding the people of Swansea to ransom" with the threat of bringing the city to a standstill with a "needless all-out strike".

Gerald Clement, deputy eader of Swansea Council, said: "Unison is threatening an all-out strike and to halt vital public services over something that may never happen. Unison must realise that this is not a game; it is playing with people's lives.

"If Unison goes on all-out strike are they happy for people not to be buried, weddings to be postponed, rubbish left in the streets, children not to be educated and the most vulnerable and needy left without vital support?

"The council has tried to resolve this dispute, it has been open and fair throughout this process but Unison keeps on shifting the goalposts and changing their stance.

"We are living in the 21st century, yet the union appears to be caught in a 1970s time warp where it thinks the only way to resolve a dispute is to hold a gun to the council's head."

Unison dismissed Councillor Clement's comments as scaremongering, with Keith Jenkins, Unison shop steward for ICT, rejecting the council's claim that it has been transparent about the proposed service@swansea scheme.

"It has not been an open and fair process. It has been about evasion, half truths, secrecy and deceit," he said. ®

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