THE dispute over the £400 million privatisation of IT in Glasgow has intensified amid allegations of illegal strike-busting tactics and claims millions of pounds in payments to the city’s most vulnerable are at risk.

As the first three-week wave of strikes kicks off, with an initial 40 staff targeting critical areas of the city council’s computer network, unions and MPs have reacted with anger to the appearance of adverts featuring the jobs of workers taking industrial action.

The posts, advertised on the sites of IT recruitment specialists, accurately match the description of the jobs of those on strike, are located in Glasgow city centre and run for two months.

READ MORE: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon returns fire over Brexit to accuse Chancellor Philip Hammond of 'arrogance'

SNP MPs have also warned the council that bringing in external staff to carry out work during the industrial action risked breaching laws restricting the use of agency workers during a strike.

An early day motion lodged by Glasgow South West MP Chris Stephens and backed by 21 colleagues, including former first minister Alex Salmond and Stewart Hosie, “demands that Glasgow City Council desist from hiring agency workers to replace their own workforce on strike”.

But while the council has not denied the existence of the adverts, it claims neither it, the arms-length IT body Access which it jointly runs with Serco or any third party on its behalf was behind them.

It has also denied that opening up its firewall, the protective shield around its IT system, was intended to allow third parties access to the system to undermine the strike.

The latest twist comes days after a Labour councillor blocked the progress of the privatisation plan by accidentally voting with opponents to stall the plan by pressing the wrong voting button.

The Herald revealed in August how the council planned to save £100m by privatising everything from payroll to schools IT and social work systems, with Canadian multi-national CGI the frontrunner.

The first three-week strike began on Thursday, with another for the same length of time planned for January.

Mr Stephens said: “It is deeply concerning to hear of the use of agency workers to fulfil duties of striking workers, which is in breach of employment regulations.

“There is a combined opposition at Westminster who oppose the use of agency workers in official industrial disputes. The concern here, as trade unions have argued, is that such measure inflame tensions and could exacerbate a dispute.”

Unison’s Brian Smith said: “It’s impossible to claim that these job adverts are not related to the current dispute based on what senior council officers have been saying to the trade union and from our informal sources. The job titles match our strikers posts, the location is Glasgow, the contract length of two months is the same as the period of the current action and the start date was the 1st December, the strike start day.”

READ MORE: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon returns fire over Brexit to accuse Chancellor Philip Hammond of 'arrogance'

But in a letter to Mr Stephens, the council said: “Neither Glasgow City Council nor Access is recruiting agency workers to undertake the duties of striking workers. For the avoidance of doubt, neither has Glasgow City Council or Access asked any other agency to do so on its behalf.”

It also claimed unions refused to give assurances it will provide “life and limb cover”, with vital payments, including £30m housing benefits and monies for charities including Cash For Kids at risk.