Fuel firm ‘rode roughshod’ over staff and users

Mum Pache Mbombo with her new baby Jonathan. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Mum Pache Mbombo with her new baby Jonathan. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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ENERGY giant npower has been accused of “riding roughshod” over consumers and its staff after announcing the latest hammerblow to the economy which will see nearly 1,500 job losses as work is moved to India.

The firm confirmed yesterday that it is set to shed 1,460 posts, including 80 jobs at its Leeds offices, in a move aimed at streamlining its operations.

But union officials launched a broadside against the company amid accusations it is sacrificing the at-risk workers in the North and the Midlands for its “thirst for profits”.

A 10.4 per cent gas and electricity price rise announced by npower comes into effect this Sunday. The average annual household bill for a dual fuel npower customer will increase from £1,352 to £1,491.

The director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, Ann Robinson, claimed the price hike is taking “us a step closer to hitting an affordability ceiling”.

And Unison official Matt Lay said: “Npower are riding roughshod over their staff and customers. Customers have just had a 10.4 per cent rise in their energy bills but clearly the company’s thirst for profits knows no bounds.

“There is no consideration of what this will do to the UK or to the local economy in the worst hit areas.

“The West Midlands and North-West have the highest rates of unemployment in the country and losing another 1,460 jobs will do more damage to struggling local businesses and services.

“Unison is already getting backing from local MPs and will be urging councils, customers, staff and unions to get involved in the fight back against these disastrous proposals. These so called savings will backfire on the company who have consistently let their customers and staff down by not investing enough in the workforce, technology or in the latest customer service techniques.”

As well as the redundancies in Leeds, a site in Thornaby in Stockton-on-Tees will close but employees will relocate to npower’s head office in Rainton, Tyne and Wear. The firm’s offices in Stoke on Trent will shut, affecting about 550 employees, and one of three offices in Oldbury, in the West Midlands, will close, making 400 workers redundant.

There will also be redundancies at npower’s sites at Rainton Bridge, Sunderland, affecting around 430 employees. The cuts will leave npower employing around 720 people in Leeds.

Work previously carried out by npower staff will be done by workers at two other firms – Capita and Tata Consultancy Services. npower, which is owned by German company RWE, said the changes aimed to deliver a more “efficient, flexible and improved customer experience”.

Chief executive, Paul Massara, said “I understand that these changes would be incredibly hard for some of our employees and we’ll be doing everything we can to support them over the next few months. This restructure is necessary if we are to deliver the levels of service our customers deserve. All calls would still be answered in the UK. We would have the flexibility to keep call waiting times down during busy periods, and continue to keep costs down so we can keep bills down.”

Challenged about the issue in the Commons, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said the Government had not been warned about the announcement which he described as “very worrying” for all those involved, and added: “We will be working across government to see what we can do to help people affected.”

npower has launched a consultation and is offering enhanced redundancy packages to workers who choose to leave and promised to provide training and support to help staff find work elsewhere.