Birmingham & Black Country

Npower Oldbury job cuts 'absolutely scandalous'

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Media captionThe energy firm plans to close its sites in Stoke-on-Trent site and Oldbury.

Energy giant Npower's plan to cut about 400 jobs in the West Midlands is "absolutely scandalous", the local MP has said.

Oldbury's Quayside House would close in June next year under the plans. Some employees at Birchfield House would also be affected.

The company said it was "operating in extremely tough times".

John Spellar, the Labour MP for Warley, said he found the plans "incredibly arrogant and insensitive".

He said it was an "astonishing" proposal at a time when energy firms were under fire over profits.

"There is a massive public debate about energy prices and profits and now in their insatiable greed, they're sacking British employees just before Christmas and transferring the jobs to India.

"Their behaviour is a disgrace and the energy secretary needs to consider the whole shape of the energy market."

'Very upset'

He said that local people had "given years and decades of loyal service and are bring kicked in the teeth by a greedy company".

The company said the plans, subject to consultation, "would save on current customer service costs, at a time of external pressures on energy prices".

Quayside would close with about 250 job losses, said BBC WM reporter Kathryn Stanczyszyn.

Image caption Head of site Lee Wilkes said he broke down at one point

At the scene, she said there were some "very upset people outside Quayside House".

One worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said staff had been told "everyone will be gone by July".

"It's just sad. People are very sad and upset."

The firm said back office roles currently undertaken by employees at Quayside House would be managed by Tata Consultancy Services and outsourced to India, although phone calls made to Npower would continue to be answered in the UK.

Head of site at Quayside House, Lee Wilkes, said: "At one point, I broke down myself with my people.

"I've worked with these people for some time. As a business, we have to do everything we can to get our costs as low as we can and it results in some difficult decisions."

Rob Sawle, Npower's head of customer accounts, said it would do everything it could "to look after everyone affected".

He said: "As a business, we're operating in extremely tough times and we've had to look at what's right for the long-term future of the company.

"We also have to keep our costs as low as possible when our customers are seeing bills going up due to a range of external factors."

'Not a done deal'

The union Unison said it was set to have detailed talks with the company on Monday and would be asking it to reconsider its decision.

Regional organiser Andrew Johnson said: "Npower have consistently let their customers and staff down by not investing enough in the workforce, technology or in the latest customer service techniques.

"This has led to a huge number of complaints which the company seems to think they can deal with by shifting the responsibility to somewhere else - including to India."

Stuart Harrison, from the GMB union, said for there to be "a meaningful consultation, they should be exploring every avenue".

He added: "So to say it is a done deal, the business may think that, but the GMB union will not be thinking that."

Image caption John Singh (right), from Aplins newsagent, said it had "got quieter"

John Singh, who runs Aplins newsagent in Oldbury, said: "Over the years, it has got quieter, but there's not much you can do.

"The jobs going will affect us. We noticed it when council jobs went too.

"We used to deliver papers to Npower but they cancelled them last year."

Tony Ruston, who has run a takeaway jacket potato stall in Oldbury for 11 years, said it was "a lot quieter" in the area.

He added: "There's not much here for people to come [to] town for. You don't get the passing trade like you used to."

Sandwell Chamber of Commerce president Ninder Johal said the news was "a blip when one views the area in the context of long-term prosperity".

He said recent successful applications for regional growth fund grants, largely by companies to the government, meant prospects for employment in the area were "very positive".

Mr Johal said the chamber was "largely comprised of small to medium enterprises [who] have an affinity with the area and are less likely to outsource their operations aboard".

In Oldbury, more than 500 employees would continue serving industrial and commercial customers, Npower said.

The company, which said there would be a "gradual closure" of Quayside House, will undertake a 60-day consultation programme with affected employees.

The firm has a third office in Oldbury, at Birch House, which is unaffected by the proposals.

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