Swansea outsourcing prompts strike action

Swansea City Council has provoked an ongoing strike over plans to outsource its IT department, but new laws coming in next year may help make such disputes a thing of the past.

Public sector union Unison claims that IT staff only found out about plans to outsource the department when they saw an EU publication advertising the contract.

ITNet and Capgemini are competing for the £100m contract. It has, though, been significantly held up by the industrial action, which has now entered its seventh week.

ITNet head of legal Andrew Foster said: “Where there’s significant union involvement in a customer that we’re going to be signing an outsourcing contract with, we’d tend to set up meetings with the unions and explain to them what our plans are and understand and receive their concerns.”

Under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (Tupe), when staff are going to be transferred from a company or from the public sector to a supplier, the outsourcing company has a duty to inform employees “in good time”.

Just last month the Government approved the April 2005 introduction of the Employee Information and Consultation Regulations. This law will bring the EU Information and Consultation Directive to the UK and force companies to set up works councils in a similar style to European employee consultation bodies.

A spokesperson for Swansea City Council said the council is in conciliatory talks involving Acas at the moment, and that there are three options for the future of IT services – outsourcing, keeping the function in-house or secondment. A decision is due in December.