The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has risked inflaming already volatile relations with its main trade union after outsourcing its office support services to a private company.
The DWP has signed a seven-year deal with Haden Building Management for a range of office services including mailroom, switchboard operations, typing and secretarial services. The new contract - the value of which is unknown - will go live in March 2007, with hundreds of government jobs transferring to Haden.
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS), which represents about 100,000 workers in the DWP, claims it has been told by Haden that it wants to cut 1,800 jobs by early 2008. The government has confirmed that proposals put forward by Haden are "likely to result in a reduction in staff numbers".
The PCS said it was "absolutely committed" to opposing the cuts. A memo on its website said: "The PCS condemns these savage job cuts as completely unacceptable. The grim reality of what the privatisation of DWP work means is made clear by the severity of Haden's drive to cut costs and maximise profits at the expense of jobs." But Haden has assured the union that it will try to redeploy staff, either within the firm or at its parent company Balfour Beatty.
The deal is part of the DWP's drive to become a leaner organisation. It runs parallel to the huge number of jobs the department is planning to axe as part of the Gershon efficiency review.
The PCS has repeatedly clashed with the DWP in recent months over the cuts, new HR policies and "deteriorating service levels". It is balloting members on a deal to resolve the dispute.
Union enraged by DWP policy