Is Labour-run Glasgow City Council organising to break a strike of 39 specialist IT workers illegally? This is the question on the lips of Unison union strikers.
They have found that IT recruitment agencies have advertised jobs accurately matching theirs, in Glasgow city centre, for the two-month duration of their strike.
The 39 workers at Access—a council joint venture with outsourcing giant Serco that runs the authority’s IT service—are on a three-week walkout.
Unison convenor Tony Santilli told Socialist Worker that the strike is going “very well”.
The dispute centres on the £400 million proposed privatisation of Glasgow IT services by Labour Party councillors. They are pushing a deal with the Canadian multinational CGI Group.
But Tony said workers “want the IT service to remain in-house and not be privatised”.
The Unison convenor said the union was alerted to the strike-busters’ plot when strikers received recruitment adverts for their jobs from agencies they were registered with.
Panic erupted in the council chief executive’s office last Thursday as workers began their walkout.
Just 39 workers “could have a severe impact on our ability to deliver our services” during their strike from 1 to 22 December, chief executive Annemarie O’Donnell told council staff in an email.
O’Donnell is panicking because the strikers “work in highly technical fields that support the council’s business critical applications”.
“Because of the specialist roles they perform, there is very limited ability to move other members of staff to cover for them,” she said.
For job adverts to appear as the chief executive makes this statement is very fishy.
The workers’ action will be suspended for the Christmas holidays and resume again from 5 to 27 January. The union is also considering further action.
Glasgow Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Chris Stephens has lodged an early day motion at Westminster. It demands that the council “desist from hiring agency workers to replace their own workforce on strike”.
SNP councillors, and the Greens, are opposed to the Labour privatisation plan. Yet the proposal still has not gone to a full council meeting.
Labour will not be keen on having a full vote for fear that any of its councillors rebel.
It is digging a bigger grave for itself at the council elections in May.
But the SNP’s hands are not clean. It cut a joint decision with Labour in Edinburgh to hand a seven-year £190 million deal to CGI. And its Scottish government contract with the firm has been disastrous.
Workers can rely only on their own action to defeat the privatisation plan—not politicians eager to please in return for votes in May.