Storm clouds gather for CSC as Unite protests against redundancies (UPDATED 19 April)

By Chris Middleton
18 Apr 2012 View Comments
Unite members form a picket line

Unite members working for IT services giant CSC will take to the streets on Thursday to voice their concerns over the company’s redundancy plans.

Unite members from CSC’s Chesterfield, Chorley, Leeds and Solihull sites will take part in a lunch-time protest over what the union describes as the company's "refusal to listen" to Unite proposals designed to mitigate compulsory redundancies.

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Following weeks of consultation over a reduction of staff on the troubled NHS Lorenzo contract, CSC is "insistent on issuing compulsory redundancy notices, despite receiving a sufficient number of volunteer requests to leave the company," said Unite.

Unite national officer, Kevin O’Gallagher, said: “We will now increase pressure on CSC to listen to its staff and to Unite’s proposals. We have put forward a detailed plan, which will avoid any compulsory redundancies in the company.

"However, these plans have fallen on deaf ears. Our members are now taking to the streets to get their voices heard. As a union, we will do everything in our power to support these workers through this very uncertain time."

CSC denied Unite's allegation. In a written statement it said: "We have been working with the trade unions and employee representatives in consultation to mitigate the necessity for compulsory redundancies. 

"The consultation is ongoing with significant progress having already been made in this regard through a voluntary programme and redeployment, and we are hopeful of making still further progress."

Meanwhile, CSC's relationship with the government seems to be at a crossroads.

CSC said a fortnight ago that its future relationship with the NHS involves working more closely with individual healthcare trusts. This implies that rich pickings from a more devolved NHS are in the offing, despite a damning assessment of the company from Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

In 2011, the public expenditure watchdog slammed the slow progress of CSC's work on the NHS National programme for IT (NPfIT). "There is no way these guys ought to be working for the government," said PAC chair Margaret Hodge.

Hodge's comments came in the wake of a leaked CSC proposal to knock £264m off the cost of the work, while only installing its Lorenzo software in 80 NHS trusts, instead of the planned 220. This equated to one third of the original work for two thirds of the original cost, effectively doubling the cost of the remaining work.

This led Richard Bacon, MP, to tell CSC's representative: "In seven years, you've deployed in three hospitals and you've caused chaos. You're going to get into a position where it would be dangerous to get rid of you."

Christine Connelly, NHS director of Informatics. added that if the proposal was accepted, the NHS "would then be over a barrel" in terms of its relationship with the supplier.

Negotiations over Lorenzo are still ongoing and the project remains at a standstill until June. Discussions were due to finish on 31 March, but the deadline passed without agreement.

The controversy over CSC's handling of the Lorenzo deal is why some MPs and analysts have expressed bafflement that the firm has been named preferred bidder on a £400m, 10-year personnel services contract for the Ministry of Defence, in preference to current incumbent, HP.

PAC member Richard Bacon today called the MoD's decision "regrettable".

Asked about the loss of the deal, HP told Computing: "We can confirm that HP has been unsuccessful in its bid for the UK Ministry of Defence contract to deliver pay, personnel and pensions administration to the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency (SPVA) for the UK Armed Forces.

"HP will work to ensure a seamless transition of activities to the successful bidder, ensuring no loss of service to the thousands of people who depend on the service."

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