Ministry of Justice (MoJ) employees may go on strike this summer over proposals to bring the department into the government’s wider shared services programme.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said that plans for the MoJ to join other departments in outsourcing their back-office functions to French IT multinational Steria will result in "job losses, office closures and offshoring".
Specifically, PCS said that three offices in Sheffield, Cardiff and Leeds face closure which, combined with job losses across another six offices, will result in 500 job losses in total.
Ballot papers were sent out to members in nine offices, including the MoJ’s shared services centre in Newport, at the end of last week. Voting is due to close on 18 June.
The ‘Next Generation Shared Services’ plan, published in December 2012, sets out aims to incorporate the back-office functions of every Whitehall department, with the exception of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, into five centres.
The first centre, dubbed ‘ISSC1’, was launched in March 2013, with business process outsourcing firm Arvarto taking over the Department for Transport’s Swansea facility as part of a seven-year contract to run its back-office services. It also provides services to HM Treasury, the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
The second centre, known as ‘ISSC2’, was set up in November last year, with French IT multinational Steria winning a contract to initially provide back-office services to the Department for Work & Pensions, with other departments such as the Department for Education, the Cabinet Office and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs due to join later. PCS members went on strike in protest against the deal just before it was signed last year.
The Ministry of Justice is now understood to be planning to join ISSC2.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “As part of the Government's Next Generation Shared Services Strategy, the department is considering options for the future delivery of back office admin services.
“All options will be evaluated to make sure they provide value for taxpayers' money. We will work with staff, trade unions and other stakeholders to assess any impacts on staff.”
A recent report into major government projects gave the government’s shared services an amber/red rating, indicating doubt about its successful delivery, ‘with major risks or issues apparent’ and ‘urgent action needed to ensure these are addressed’.