The Ministry of Justice’s plans sell off personal and commercially sensitive data have triggered a a six-day strike by members of the Public & Commercial Services (PCS) Union, who fear jobs cuts will ensue.
Some 120 members, who make up 99% of the staff in the Bootle office, started the strike action this week. More staff from the Newport office will join them for a 24-hour strike on July 31. It follows a similar one-day strike at both offices on 30 June.
Members of the union have written to Permanent Secretary Ursula Brennan to raise concerns about the privatisation plan, that will lead to data being dealt with by a third party, and potentially being stored overseas.
Brennan has been asked to answer a series of questions around data protection, and the union claims that if the response is not satisfactory then it will be referring the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Hundreds of the MoJ’s staff work in shared-services centres that handle the payroll, personnel and finance functions for the department, courts, prison and probation services and the Home Office.
Under the proposals they could all be handed over to a new company, called Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL), which is 75% owned by French IT services company Steria and 25% owned by the Government.
The union said that job losses and migration of data would go against previous ministerial commitments to keep government contracts in the UK, and Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent pledge to “reshore” jobs.
“Not only does this move threaten the security of sensitive personal and financial information, it is a cynical exploitation of the inferior pay and employment conditions of workers in other countries,” said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka.
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