Swansea Council braced for further unrest over £150m outsourcing deal

Swansea City Council could face renewed industrial action over its planned £150m IT outsourcing deal with consultancy firm Capgemini, unions have warned.

Public sector union Unison said there was a 50/50 chance of further industrial action after the council said it would transfer 70% of IT staff to Capgemini under TUPE rules.

A number of IT staff walked out for 10 weeks in protest over the outsourcing process last autumn. There was further anger earlier this month when the council rejected staff calls to be seconded, rather than transferred, to Capgemini. It had earlier rejected a bid by council IT workers to remain in-house.

Unison regional organiser Jeff Baker said the council had approved the deal and employment transfer “on the nod” without considering alternatives. He said this had caused resentment among IT staff as the deal went ahead.

“I do not think there is a shred of good will [among staff],” he said. “After the efforts they have made, people now think: ‘What do we owe the authority?’.”

A council spokesman said the IT department’s proposals had been considered, but the plan to transfer IT staff was preferred as it offered better value and a faster return on investment. Secondment also created greater legal risks, he said.

Nigel Roxburgh, director of best practice group the National Outsourcing Association, said: “This deal was poorly handled from the start, and the council, and the staff, have suffered the consequences.”

Organisations planning outsourcing risk failure if their staff do not have a positive view of the deal, Roxburgh warned.

“The worst that can happen is that you end up with a team that is so dispirited that it fights [the contractor] tooth and nail,” he said. “Everything that the supplier puts up may be attacked by the client account team.”

Capgemini said it was unable to comment during negotiations.

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