STAFF who fear their jobs maybe under threat as part of a potential government privatisation plan went on strike yesterday.

Workers at the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) Shared Service centre at Celtic Springs Business Park were told last week that their jobs could be privatised if a deal is done with French outsourcing company Steria in August.

Of about 1,000 workers at the centre, 300 PCS (Public and Commercial Services) union members were on strike while about 60 workers attended a picket line which was visited by Newport MPs Paul Flynn and Jessica Morden.

The centre undertakes administrative work for government for the prison services, the court service, probation service and has recently taken work for the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

The PCS said the UK Government favours Steria’s plan to offshore jobs to India where one of the company’s subsidiaries, Shared Services Connected Ltd (SSCL), runs an NHS call-centre.

SSCL is 75 per cent owned by Steria. The UK Government owns the further 25 per cent.

Keith Johnston from the PCS said: “We think it is the second or third largest employer behind the hospital and the council and it would be a massive blow to the economy if it was shut down.

“The employment make up of this city cannot take that hit.”

While Mr Flynn said the centre had saved the government £32 million in two years after it opened in 2006.

He said: “They have multiplied that surplus every years taking on new contracts. Why penalize success? Why savage the Newport economy to offshore jobs to other countries?”

Mark and Sarah McCool, who both work at the centre, married two months ago and have two children, said they were worried their jobs would be insecure if Steria take control of the centre

Mrs McCool said of Steria: “They are a French company who have no loyalty to keep British jobs. They have no loyalty to Britain.

“They have facilities to just start up and move it to India. That is what they did with the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) in Cardiff.”

The DWP announced in January that their were to close their one of their offices and move work across the city.

Other strikes around the country were held to protest over the MOJ’s plans. At a sister site in Bootle, Liverpool from 120 workers there, 118 decided to strike. Only one worker turned up for work.

And Ms Morden said: “What I found amazing is the people who have never been on strike (are striking). It shows how strongly they feel.”

She said she will be asking a question about the Shared Service Centre in Parliament today.

Of the centre’s workers, the Argus understands there are 700 people employed full-time and 300 others are on temporary contracts.

In a statement, the MOJ said: "The vast majority of our shared services staff went to work as normal and no problems have been reported.

"Contingency plans are in place and we have been able to continue providing services to all staff."