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Bin men walk out in support of Swansea IT strike
Council services 'deteriorating'
Tensions in Swansea intensified yesterday after bin men and other staff walked out in support of striking IT workers opposed to the privatisation of their department.
Union officials from Unison stepped up their industrial action at the council's main buldings and depots asking workers not to cross picket lines set up for the day. As a result, refuse collection and the council's transport fleet depots shut down. Striking IT workers reported that a number of council workers also refused to turn up to work, with just a "small minority" of staff reporting for duty at County Hall and Swansea's Guildhall.
No one from the council was available to comment on the scale of yesterday's disruption, which some sources claim brought services to a virtual halt.
Speaking to the BBC, councillor David Phillips, leader of the opposition Labour group, acknowledged that council services were "deteriorating" as more and more workers joined the strike.
"Looking at the car park today there are clearly not many staff in work. Refuse collection workers have also gone on strike and I hear rumours that other workers are considering similar action. The situation is clearly deteriorating," he said.
The 100 IT workers on strike also claim that the council has tried to "gag" its website and used outside contractors to keep systems going.
Said one IT worker: "We've been attempting to get our point across to management for the best part of a year. Not only have they failed to listen, but now they're preventing us from getting our point across to our colleagues, many of whom are fearful that if ICT is outsourced, they could be next in line.
"The response we got [yesterday from council staff] was incredible. Perhaps management might like to change their 'it's been business as usual' statement. It is clear that this is an issue about which many council staff, outside of the ICT Department, feel very strongly."
No one from the council was available for comment at the time of writing. However, in a statement yesterday the council's assistant chief exec, Michelle Morris, said: "We very much regret the decision the union has taken in calling on its members to take unofficial action by not crossing picket lines established by IT staff involved in an official industrial dispute with us. By calling for this action, Unison has put our staff in a very difficult position. The council is doing all it can to minimise any interruption in services to the people of Swansea which may occur because of this unofficial industrial action."
On Monday, 100 IT staff at Swansea Council began indefinite industrial action over plans to outsource the local authority's IT department to a private firm. Some 20 sytems - including social services, benefits and payroll - have been hit by the action, although the council has pledged to keep its services going with support from "external experts".
Two companies - ITNET and Capgemini - have been shortlisted to take on the council's IT division and help implement its Service@Swansea e-government initiative designed to create a one-stop-shop for council services. ®
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