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BCC plans to outsource jobs to Asia, source says

Brisbane City Council plans to outsource 50 information technology jobs to Asia to save wages, a well-placed council source told Fairfax Media this week.

The outsourcing of IT jobs in three work areas - help desk, project services and administration - was confirmed by a spokesman for Lord Mayor Graham Quirk on Sunday.

However Cr Quirk’s spokesman said a final decision on exactly where the jobs would be outsourced to would not be made for several weeks.

The senior source has told brisbanetimes.com.au that the council’s senior information technology managers were now discussing how to send the jobs to India, China or elsewhere in Asia with two outsourcing companies.

If it goes ahead with the plan - to be decided on by the council in January or early February - BCC will be one of the first government agencies to outsource work overseas and not to an Australian firm.

‘‘The councillors may not know about it yet,’’ the source said.

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‘‘It is just the IT managers deciding it now. However, I am assuming that once the councillors know about it, they should be smart enough to say no.’’

BCC's Finance and Administration committee chairman Julian Simmonds yesterday confirmed that three IT areas would be outsourced.

"Council has looked at what services IT currently offers internally to our staff which could be offered externally at a lower cost to ratepayers with a higher service result," Cr Simmonds said.

"We found in three areas it is done internally at a cheaper price and better service result, but we have made no decision on the other three service areas."

Cr Simmonds insisted there would be no forced redundancies for employees.

The source said most IT staff were generally unhappy with the plan to send the work overseas to save money on wages, while others were concerned at the impact on their jobs.

"Like IT support, when a council employee rings up and says 'I have got a problem with my desktop, that is the type of work that can be shifted overseas," the source said.

‘‘So instead of that work being done by people living in Australia, it will be done by people living in another country.’’

The council issued an expression of interest for the outsourcing work eight months ago, the source said, adding:

‘‘They are now in detailed contract negotiations with two multinational companies, with a view to having it up and running by June. But in order to do that they have to have into the first council meeting of the year.’’

Asked if the council was acting responsibly in seeking to use lower paid overseas workers as a means of saving money, Cr Quirk’s spokesman said negotiations were still underway.

‘‘Well we are not at that stage yet of saying where the work is going. It is still deciding on whether we do the outsourcing or not,’’ the spokesman said.

‘‘When that decision is made, then we will get to that decision. But we are not there yet.’’

Any decision on IT outsourcing would be separate to the council's $353 million business and system efficiency review program, which is a large-scale upgrade of its payroll system.

However, other sources have also pointed out that Brisbane’s water and sewerage supplier, Queensland Urban Utilities, which is majority-owned by the council, also can no longer use the council's IT area because their contract finishes on June 30, 2012.

Sources say this change may influence the number of IT jobs needed by the council.

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