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MoJ IT workers 'n' pals extend strike action over privatisation

Fears of cuts when shared services gig moves to Steria

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Unionised civil servants at the MoJ have extended strike action over plans to outsource back office functions to a French integrator amid fears of wide-scale job cuts.

As revealed first by us last month, members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union voted in favour of industrial level protests over the MoJ's decision to privatise Shared Service Centres in Bootle and Newport.

Workers already staged a sit-down on 30 June, and initiated an overtime ban across both sites until the end of next month.

The workers are fearful of being TUPED across to French integrator Steria, whose majority-owned joint venture with the government, SSCL, won the rights to provide back office functions including payroll, IT and HR to the 90,000 civil servants that run the UK's prisons, probation and courts services.

A one-day sit-down at the site in South Wales is still set for 31 July but an extra day has been added as part of the "ongoing campaign" by shared services bods, the PCS claimed.

In the case of the Bootle centre, 100 per cent of PCS members or 118 staff have steered clear of work "forcing the office to close" under a six-day walkout that is due to end on 31 July.

Lead Bootle rep Jenny Kenny said:

"We've had a lot of support from colleagues, especially people in the building and contributions to our hardship fund."

The Shared Service contract award to Steria comes after the firm botched an ERP roll out for the "in-house" programme - a project which was designed to save money but was written off at a cost of £56m to the taxpayer.

Steria takes control of the MoJ centres from the autumn, and the PCS previously said that when the company took over the functions for the DWP and Defra, it halved the number of incumbent civil servants after closing three offices and hiring 200 staff in India to manage some of the work.

Steven Heyward, assistant secretary of the PCS Planning Inspectorate Branch, said in a statement:

"It is absolutely outrageous to think that public services could make a profit for the pockets of the rich while... our members face poor terms and conditions, abhorrent pay restraint and more. Public services ought to be free, public services ought to be public."

A mouthpiece for the MoJ sent us this statement:

"We have engaged with staff and unions throughout this process and have listened to their concerns. We are disappointed with their decision to strike.

"Our contingency measures will ensure that staff are paid on time and that this action has minimal impact.

"We need to modernise our aging back office systems and make them more efficient for taxpayers — this change will save over £100m of public money in the next seven years.

"Staff will have their current terms, conditions and pensions transferred to their new employer.” ®

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