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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: SAP announcement will be made tomorrow

Provincial work to be outsourced to IBM.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 7, 2012 at 1:44 PM

The leadership of the union representing provincial SAP workers is meeting with officials of the provincial finance department this afternoon. The meeting was called by the finance department, and the union’s assumption is that they’ll be told the SAP work will be outsourced to IBM. SAP workers themselves tell The Coast that they’ve been summoned to a meeting at 8am Thursday, presumably for the same purpose.

SAP is an acronym for Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung, a German company that sells the ubiquitous SAP software system, which companies, organizations and governments use for planning and managing finances.

The province's SAP department manages SAP operations for provincial departments, but also for Nova Scotia Business, Inc., most municipalities, school boards, the NSLC, Halifax Water, housing authorities and other agencies. It consists of 73 union members, but an additional 40 non-union employees working for the provincial health authorities will also be affected.

The broad outline of the deal with IBM looks like this: in return for outsourcing the provincial SAP program to IBM, and for some as-yet unspecified provincial incentives like payroll rebates and worker training payments, IBM will “offshore” one of its US operations to Halifax, hiring perhaps 300 people locally.

The IBM deal comes coincidentally close to the need for developer Joe Ramia to find a tenant for the office tower he is constructing above the new convention centre, which is also heavily subsidized by the province. None of our sources, however, could confirm that the IBM deal includes tenancy in Ramia’s building.

Repeated calls to the provincial department of Finance were not returned. As well, premier Darrell Dexter has not return a call for comment.

But union spokesperson Deedee Slye confirms that some sort of announcement is in the works. NSGEU president Joan Jessome was meeting with the finance department at press time, but she and and finance minister Maureen MacDonald spoke to us last week.

"I don't think we're going to win this one," Jessome told us, as about 50 union members picketed Province House, chanting "outsource the NDP."

Jessome said she had spoken with officials with Nova Scotia Business, Inc, the province’s economic development agency, who in tun told her that they were in negotiations with a company for purposes of outsourcing the SAP. NSBI declined to comment to The Coast.

While not confirming that the province was negotiating with IBM, MacDonald did speak broadly about the philosophy behind outsourcing SAP. “We struggle to find revenue for health care and education,” MacDonald told us. “We need to address economic development and JobsHere is a core priority...we will make the best deals that we can make.”

When we pointed out that the governing NDP was alienating much of it pro-union base, MacDonald objected. “I’ve been working with the party since my early 20s,” she said.” I’ve worked a lot of elections,I’m as committed today as ever to the principles of the NDP: Make life bette for people, and that means good opportunities for employment.”

And how would MacDonald explain to her early 20s self that, 30 years later, she’d be working to hand over a large government operation to one of the most profitable corporations on Earth, with a reputation for being anti-union?

“I’ve always supported good government services, education and health care,” replied MacDonald. “And the money for that needs to come from somewhere. That means jobs, which will bring the tax revenue ensuring that we have a strong safety net.”

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