A wave of action over outsourcing in the public sector is being threatened after IT staff at a Bradford council voted overwhelmingly to strike.
The action is being closely watched by unions across the public sector as they step up their campaign against outsourcing.
The staff are unhappy at a proposed £100 million deal that will see Bradford Metropolitan District Council outsource its entire IT function. Atos KPMG, Cap Gemini Ernst &Young and IBM/ITNet are all competing for the 10-year contract. A preferred bidder is expected to be selected in March, with the contract beginning in July 2004.
Unison and GMB public sector unions have warned that they will bring the council “to its knees”, unless the council agrees to negotiate over the terms of the transfer. In particular, the unions want the council to agree to secondment for staff who do not want to transfer to the winning bidder.
Union leaders are set to meet with the council’s CEO today and staff could be on strike as early as next week if an agreement cannot be reached.
The unions warn that their strike action will affect council tax collection, as well as the IT infrastructure, including telephone connections and email.
In a ballot, 91% of staff voted for industrial action on a turnout of 81%. In the run-up to the ballot, union leaders had accused the council of ignoring council consultation procedures and refusing to negotiate over the terms of any staff transfer.
The council has said that it will consult staff and unions “at the correct stage”.