MoJ staff extend strike against shared services outsourcing

Civil servants at the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) shared service centre in Newport have voted to extend their strike this week from one to two days.

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Civil servants at the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) shared service centre in Newport have voted to extend their strike this week from one to two days.

The action is being taken against proposals to outsource the department’s back office services to Shared Services Connected Limited (SSCL).

The staff members in Newport, who are represented by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, announced plans to go on strike this Thursday just a few days ago.

However, this weekend “a clear majority” of union members voted for a further day’s action, meaning that the civil servants will walk out on Friday 1 August as well, according to a PCS spokesperson.

They join civil servants at another MoJ shared service centre in Bootle, Merseyside, who have been picketing against the plans since last Thursday in a six-day strike that is due to conclude at the end of this week. 

MoJ staff at both offices went on strike over the proposals on 30 June and have also signed up to an overtime ban until 31 August.

The MoJ employees are concerned about plans for the ministry to join other Whitehall departments in outsourcing back office functions such as procurement, finance, payroll and HR to SSCL.

PCS claimed that the transfer will result in office closures and the loss of 500 jobs, and has expressed concern that it could lead to personal and commercially sensitive data currently handled by civil servants being dealt with by a private firm overseas.

The venture, which was launched at the end of last year, is 75 percent owned by French multinational Steria and 25 percent owned by the government.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "We have engaged with staff and unions throughout this process and have listened to their concerns. We are disappointed with their decision to strike.

"Our contingency measures will ensure that staff are paid on time and that this action has minimal impact. We need to modernise our aging back office systems and make them more efficient for taxpayers — this change will save over £100m of public money in the next seven years.

"Staff will have their current terms, conditions and pensions transferred to their new employer.”

It emerged last month that the MoJ had to write off £56 million in IT costs after abandoning its shared services programme. The majority of the losses were caused by a failed project to build an ERP system, which Steria had been responsible for developing.  

A number of MPs representing the constituencies affected have been vocal in their opposition to the MoJ’s plans.

In particular, Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, criticised the decision by the MoJ to abandon its own shared services programme in favour of SSCL during a House of Commons debate earlier this month.

He said: “It seems an act of madness to take successful jobs from an initiative developed in Newport and send them overseas, and to spread the profits to a foreign company.”

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