The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has finally signed a contract to outsource back office services to Shared Services Connected Limited (SSCL), a joint venture majority owned by French IT firm Steria.
Civil servants at the MoJ’s shared service centres in Bootle, Merseyside and Newport, South Wales took repeated industrial action over the controversial deal this summer over fears it would result in office closures, data offshoring and 500 job losses.
The employees, represented by Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, went on strike in June and July and observed a month-long overtime ban.
PCS Union said its fears of office closures have been validated just days after the contract was signed.
A spokesperson told ComputerworldUK: “Yesterday, SSCL announced to staff it intended to launch a voluntary exit scheme “imminently”, with a view to closing the Bootle office entirely. So they're already looking to get rid of staff or redeploy them.”
The union has asked for urgent talks and a pause on the voluntary exit plans over concerns people will feel pressured into leaving before getting a chance to find another civil service job.
The spokesperson added: “This is a deeply worrying time for staff who have been transferred to a private company against their will, when all they wanted was to remain in the civil service and carry on working to support their colleagues.”
The MoJ did not respond to claims that SSCL plans to close the Bootle office but a spokesperson told ComputerworldUK: “Staff will have their current terms, conditions and pensions transferred to their new employer. Their jobs will be protected for at least 12 months.”
She added that the contract will “save taxpayers more than £100m over the next seven years”.
It emerged in June 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.
SSCL is 75 percent owned by French multinational Steria and 25 percent owned by the government.
It already provides back office functions such as procurement, finance, payroll and HR to the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs via a deal signed a year ago.
The deal is part of the wider shared services strategy masterminded by then-government chief operating officer Stephen Kelly, who joined Sage as chief executive this week.
The strategy aims to consolidate back office functions into five centres (two have been set up so far) so they can be delivered more efficiently, cutting costs by £400 million to £600 million a year.
The first shared service centre, dubbed ‘ISSC1’, was set up in March last year. Business process outsourcing (BPO) firm arvato won a seven year contract to operate ISSC1, which provides back office services to the Department for Transport (DfT) and its executive agencies.