Unionized members of the Bank of Ireland’s IT department last April were threatening to go on strike if they weren’t involved in final negotiations with Hewlett-Packard Co. on a proposed outsourcing deal. Officials from Dublin-based Bank of Ireland and the union that represents its IT workers met after the disclosure of outsourcing plans for HP to take over management of the bank’s networks and its desktop, midrange and mainframe systems as part of the deal, which was expected to be worth US$600 million over seven years. The planned agreement would also include the transfer to HP of about 500 workers from the bank’s IT arm, where roughly one-third of the employees are members of the Irish Bank Officials’ Association (IBOA).

On the IBOA’s Web site, a report from The Irish Examiner noted that IBOA general secretary Larry Broderick said the big fear was that staff would transfer to HP and then conditions would change.

Anne Mathews, a spokeswoman for Bank of Ireland, said bank officials “couldn’t have meaningful discussions” with the IBOA until a preferred outsourcing vendor had been chosen. Mathews added that the contract negotiations with HP are expected to take four to six months to complete. The union will have a voice in those discussions, she said.

In an April 18 research note about the strike threat, Gartner, Inc. analyst Diane Morello wrote that she expects to see more actions by IT workers to protest “what they perceive as unsettled employment situations” as a result of job cuts and an increase in the amount of IT work being outsourced, sent offshore or farmed out to contract and temporary workers. Morello said IT managers need to anticipate potential worker backlash against outsourcing deals, even if their IT departments aren’t unionized. Companies that don’t do so risk work slowdowns or other productivity drags, she said. “The important thing is to communicate honestly and respect your employees,” Morello added.

– with file from Thomas Hoffman, Computerworld (U.S.)