back to article The magic TUPE roundabout: Council, Wipro, Northgate all deny employing Unix admins in outsourcing muddle

A pair of Unix sysadmins have claimed a botched TUPE job transfer left them stuck between three organisations which all denied responsibility for employing them. The two, named by the Scottish Employment Tribunal as Messrs K Fulke and K Reid, were employed by Wipro in 2011 on a contract the Indian firm had with the Highland …

  1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Assuming they and only they have the relevant root passwords I don't see the problem lasting longer than it takes for any work to need to be done. Then the council and Northgate can squabble between themselves as to who contracts the work out to their company.

    1. Mike 137 Silver badge

      "Assuming they and only they have the relevant root passwords"

      Knowing council IT departments, that would be a pretty unsafe assumption.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: "Assuming they and only they have the relevant root passwords"

        I quote one of Nixon's henchmen "When you have them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      The data and operations have already been migrated. Happened years ago.

      Well past the "who has the root passwords" stage by now, the legacy kit was decommissioned ages ago.

    3. imanidiot Silver badge

      I'm not entirely sure what you're insinuating, and I'm not entirely sure whether it's legal or would land you in rather hot water.

  2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Must be a nightmare.... hope it all get sorted out to the two Unix admins' best interests.

  3. tip pc Silver badge

    Are they being paid?

    Who is paying for them?

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Are they being paid?

      I'm guessing no, and that's why they are going to the tribunal.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Are they being paid?

      That was my question... Who signed their initial paychecks? Or have I missed some implied detail, that they haven't been paid yet? I mean, how long do you work before you get your first payday? Never been a contractor in the IT game, so I'm not in the know...

    3. tip pc Silver badge

      Re: Are they being paid?

      This, the company claimed, meant TUPE shouldn't apply and therefore Fulke and Reid's sysadmin jobs would be someone else's responsibility. Unfortunately for the two sysadmins, this would have meant they were jobless, stranded between three organisations that all said they weren't responsible for employing the duo.

      The article doesn’t make it clear, (I’ve emphasised the ambiguous words in the article) it makes it seem like the claimants are still employed and paid by someone.

      Is WiPRo still paying them or is Northgate?

      If their function moved to Northgate then Northgate need to pay them or make them redundant and pay what ever the claimants contract state, could be quite generous given they where ex council and could have had generous severance arrangements.

      Maybe Northgate didn’t factor that in on their bid and will be out of pocket?

      Maybe the claimants have moved on after not getting paid post transfer and are claiming unfair dismissal when they should have transferred with the contract?

      TUPE is becoming more prevalent with more businesses deciding they are not IT shops and think they can save money by having someone else do their bespoke work for them.

      1. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Are they being paid?

        You would obviously try to find another job while the mess is sorted out, sou you live instead of starving if you fail in court, and you can put a huge compensation into a savings account instead of using it to pay back your debt if you lose.

        1. tip pc Silver badge

          Re: Are they being paid?

          “ You would obviously try to find another job while the mess is sorted out, sou you live instead of starving if you fail in court, and you can put a huge compensation into a savings account instead of using it to pay back your debt if you lose.”

          This is why I asked are they being paid. If not then yes they should have moved on and taken through the courts.

          The article isn’t clear to me and suggests they are still being paid, if someone is paying them then who. If WiPRo then they will likely help their case as they can claim costs and Northgate will take their legal challenge more seriously.

          If Northgate then effectively the 2 are being paid to not do anything.

          It’s a small detail but crucial to the understanding of the story.

          1. Lon24 Silver badge

            Re: Are they being paid?

            Were any P45s issued by the original employer? Otherwise either they should still be paying or have an agreed TUPE to another party.

            But I guess as they were not employees but contractors to Wipro and all this goes out the window.

            1. tip pc Silver badge

              Re: Are they being paid?

              Where does it state they where contractors to WiPRo?

              I thought they where TUPE’d to WiPRo then mean to have been TUPE’D to Northgate, hence why they took the council and Wipro to court too.

    4. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

      Re: Are they being paid?

      I don't think it's so much whether they are being paid as to who owes them their severance pay. It appears they were working their for about 8 years so that would be eight weeks of redundancy pay (I think) plus another month in lieu of notice.

      1. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: Are they being paid?

        “ I don't think it's so much whether they are being paid”

        I’d like to know if they are being paid and if so by who?

        The article makes it sound like someone is still paying them for their job.

        1. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

          Re: Are they being paid?

          "this would have meant they were jobless, stranded between three organisations that all said they weren't responsible for employing the duo."

          In what way does this imply that they are being paid?

          I have seen a similar but less complicated situation once before. A company sold a load of it's business to a competitor, many staff were TUPE'd. One particular team turned up for work after the takeover and did their jobs for a couple of weeks until payslip day came round. Nobody got a payslip, so they phoned HR who told them "it's probably nothing to worry about, things are a bit complicated with TUPE, but don't worry you'll get payed". Two days later no pay arrived in bank accounts. More frantic phone calls to HR got the response: "who are you exactly?"

          Turned out in this case that the HR department of the old company had forgotten to include a whole team in the TUPE paperwork so the new employer didn't pay them. Somehow the same HR department had simply removed the team from their payroll. This problem was sorted out in less than 24 hours so there was no need for a tribunal.

          1. tip pc Silver badge

            Re: Are they being paid?

            “ this would have meant they were jobless”

            Implies a possibility that never occurred.

            “this meant they were jobless”

            Would be clear they where no longer employed or being paid.

  4. katrinab Silver badge

    If they weren't TUPEd, then someone should have gone through the redundancy process in respect to them, surely?

    1. John Riddoch

      Yup, that's the point - Wipro assume they've been TUPE'd and therefore not their problem. Northgate assume they haven't been TUPE'd and are Wipro's problem. Either Wipro or Northgate should have continued their employment or given them redundancy terms/notice. Looking at the tribunal decision, they've decided that they were TUPE'd and therefore Northgate's responsibility to employ or offer redundancy terms to.

      1. jollyboyspecial Bronze badge

        All of which shows why this business of using TUPE to move employees around when public sector contractors change is a huge game of trying to avoid responsibility. It's not about providing a service. It's not about paying people's wages. It's all about arse covering.

        1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Well, if there wasn't a TUPE rule, then they'd just fire everybody who wasn't specifically needed in this situation.

          Another approach would be to make it illegal for this work to be outsourced at all, so that the workers would be council employees and that's that. TUPE is a compromise between "fire everybody" and "a job for life for everybody". Or until the national government reorganises local councils, this council ceases to exist, and everyone id fired anyway... but you do still get TUPE with the next generation of local government.

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Isn't the challenge around TUPE protections? So they're doing a job at the new company, they're being paid for it, but the new company doesn't think it has to respect TUPE obligations around employment terms and conditions.

  5. DaemonProcess

    Quiet victory I hope/

    I hope the companies don't eventually win because because they will use high court judgements to put groups of more expensive employees outside of regulatory protection. I would suggest they get their MP to ask a question in Parliament but that wouldn't change a thing with the current mob who really want to remove employment protections. Ultimately TV and other mass media may be the employees best bet. I also suggest intensive cloud training like the rest of us.

    1. John Riddoch

      Re: Quiet victory I hope/

      The admins have sensibly sued all 3 of the companies to make sure they can't weasel out of it. The ruling basically said that they were TUPEd to Northgate, just need to see what the eventual outcome is. I'd assume redundancy payout at a minimum.

      1. Dante Alighieri Bronze badge
        Thumb Down

        redundancy at minimum or minimum redundancy

        unfortunately, I suspect, minimum redundancy and a long argument over when that applied which will probably be argued to be at the point of transfer/TUPE despite no notification.

        It's then no win - huge risk/cost to contest nowadays.

        1. Mr Humbug

          Re: redundancy at minimum or minimum redundancy

          I've read the judgement so we can all stop speculating.

          WiPro provided Unix systems that supported three council services. The council transferred one service to OLM Systems and the other two to Northgate. These two, the sysadmin and DBA, spent all their time directly working on those systems.

          WiPro and the council maintained they were transferred to Northgate, with the service (how Northgate chose to provide that service was irrelevant). Northgate disagreed. As both organisations were refusing to take responsibility for their contracts of employment they claimed unfair dismissal, a redundancy payment and pay in lieu of notice, naming WiPro, the council and Northgate.

          As nobody is employing them, it cannot be disputed that they were dismissed. The question the judge has just answer is who dismissed them?

          Since there was no proper procedure the dismissal is unfair, and Northgate's legal counsel will now be busy trying to reduce the liability. If Northgate has any sense it will now try to settle the case.

          In the meantime the two people should have got new jobs - they're under a duty to mitigate their loss, and failing to do so would give Northgate an argument for reducing the amount of the claim.

          1. MrBanana Silver badge

            Re: redundancy at minimum or minimum redundancy

            Thank you for the clarification. So this is not so much a TUPE issue as they are supposedly unemployed. Any sign of a P45 - surely an indication of when they were released from employment, and by whom.

            1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

              Re: redundancy at minimum or minimum redundancy

              Some Tupe arrangements dont require a P45 to be issued. Known as PAYE Succession, though if this was the case here you would have expected the chaps to have been onboarded to Northgates payroll.

              Not issuing a P45 when due is also additional evidence that it was an unfair termination.

              Fingers crossed they have a lawyer clever enough to get them more than Statutory Redudo. Hopefully a decent notice/redudancy clause in thier original council contracts.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Selling UK workers down the road and replacing them with cheap incompetent morons. Scumbag employers.

    1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: Outsourcing...

      It's a council gig. Give it 5 years of a good and proper shitshow before it all comes back in-house for more than it would have cost to keep the status quo.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Outsourcing...

        Outsourcing in councils happens for 1 of 2 reasons, the budget has reduced to the point where it is not possible to continue to run the service in-house and so it is tendered for outsourcing, or a change in council make up drives a move to 'free market competition. When outsourcing takes place because of budget constraints the managers running the procurement know the real outcome will be increased costs but have usually been pushed down this blind alley by the finance department, when its ideological it gets much messier. I was the tech support manager in a county council who ran the internal bids to retain in-house services for several years. I insisted that tenders reflected the service being provided (with 7/24 support for critical systems included as that is what my team provided at almost zero cost) needless to say once here was a political change the next tender didn't include this and it was therefore easier to match the internal costs. I was effectively removed from post and no internal proposal; was produced to continue to run the service in-house. In reality most of my team benefited financially in the short term as they were given pay rises as sweeteners to retain them in the short term. Some benefited in career development terms in the future as they were moved from that contract onto more prestigious contracts. The council 'benefited' from a move to SAP from the lower cost ERP system we had been running successfully. The loss was having an internal team who had the technical skills and capacity to pick up and pilot new technologies without huge external costs, during my time there we moved fro a purely mainframe based house to implementing several blends of Unix, implementing Email and MS Office roll outs and transitioning from a core x.25 network to an IP based network. whilst supporting all the legacy p[protocols. We had done all this whilst implementing ISEB ITIL service and change management services and improving service availability to 99.999 across the entire application estate (over 600 applications). Once that capability has gone its impossible to rebuild in under a decade. The rump of staff retained to 'manage' the contract are not the same people who delivered the service and the council are then forced down a route of moving from outsourcer to outsourcer while they rebuild that in-house capability;.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Outsourcing...

      This is how we do things in the UK. Where have you been the last 40 years, other AC? Protection & safeguards (AKA business red tape) are for "Liberals" and "Communists". We have continually voted against such things. Welcome to Nirvana.

      1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells Silver badge

        Re: Outsourcing...

        Lets go back to how it was before, which was demonstrably and factually worse.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Outsourcing...

          Wot, you mean brexit?

      2. Robert Grant Silver badge

        Re: Outsourcing...

        This tribunal is proceeding on the grounds established by existing safeguards, of which there are many.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remote sysadmin

    The difference between remote and local when doing sysadmin is how long it takes to hit the reboot button.

    Setting up a new server may also take a bit more planning but let's be honest how often does that happen at a council.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Northgate, however, had other ideas, "maintaining that the services they were providing had moved from a dedicated server environment to a shared server Cloud based environment,"

    But that wouldn't have happened on day 1. Every TUPE I've been involved with (and its not an inconsiderable amount since the bean counters took over the asylum), its been a case of the techies following the work until such time as they've been skull-fucked for enough information to move the work to cheaper locations.

    And to be fair, we were told a couple of times we'd be made redundant at some point. Rather amusingly a number of us outlasted the respective manager giving us the 'good news' on at least 2 TUPE occasions....

    1. ITMA Bronze badge

      You didn't work for RBS Group Technology by any chance? Or one of the various IT outfits that were part of NatWest before RBS gobbled them up?

      Your description sounds more than a vague resemblance to thoset events....

      I remember Project Monument (the main Coutts desktop environment integration project), Monument Returns, Son of Monument and Monument Rides Again (only to fall off its proverbial horse for the umpteenth time)...

      I think the small team I was in went through (at least) 5 different managers, half of them based 300+ miles away in Edinburgh (!!!) and at least as many HR "bodies" who were a total waste of space, air and flesh.

  9. msobkow Silver badge

    "You pay them!"

    "I'm not paying them. I didn't hire them."

    "Look, we're not paying either. I refuse to pay anyone who smells like cheese, and those admins always do..."


  10. GreyWolf

    I blame HMRC

    ... For being such religious fundamentalists about IR35...

    This case may seem to be about TUPE, but it is also so that these three organisations are shit-scared of getting caught with contractors.

    And that fear is HMRC's foul creation.

    1. Mr Humbug

      Re: I blame HMRC

      I don't think TUPE applies to contractors. These were employees.

      1. david 12 Silver badge

        Re: I blame HMRC

        Which is exactly the point. The organizations are shit scared of contractors, so these people were and are employees, when the situation could have been avoided by moving to the use of contractors.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wipro yet again

    They have a nasty habit of pulling this sort of shit

  12. swm Silver badge

    Street Sign

    I love the pentagonal round-a-bout of round-a-bouts sign. Is this sign for real?

    1. Roger Kynaston Silver badge

      Re: Street Sign

      Swindon. It is known as the magic roundabout.

      click here

      1. cortland

        Re: Street Sign

        I didn't see any of that when I was first in Swindon... of course, that was in 1951.

        When we moved to Aldbourne, IIRC the mayor had a wind-up acoustic record player.

        1. Piro Silver badge

          Re: Street Sign

          Built in the 70s if I recall

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Street Sign

      When I were a lad in Swindon at approximately 50% of the local driving test routes used to pass through it. You used to spend the night before sacrificing to various gods "Not the Magic Roundabout, not the Magic Roundabout"

      1. Piro Silver badge

        Re: Street Sign

        When I took my test, it did involve going over the Magic Roundabout, and I passed (although I had a few minors due to driving too quickly).

        Though a week or so before, I heard a story about someone taking their test who must have hesitated at the wrong moment, and got rear-ended by a bus.

      2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: Street Sign

        In practice its quite a cunning and effective design.

        Newbies are horrified by it so proceed cautiously, whilst experts know that there are 2 routes to every exit so take the route of least congestion, and everyone has to proceed though at least 2 giveways so speeds are relatively low.

        Once you learn to treat each roundabout as a separate entity it becomes pretty easy. You just have to silence the gibbering voice in the back of your head that's pointing out you are navigating the Central roundabout anti-clockwise.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

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