Major Havant employer energy firm SSE announces plans to cut 2,600 jobs due to coronavirus under new owner Ovo

More than 2,000 employees of energy supplier SSE are set to lose their jobs as new owner Ovo announced sweeping redundancies across its business.

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 9:43 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 6:56 pm
File photo dated 21/7/2011 of a sign for SSE. The energy provider SSE has agreed to sell its household supply business to Ovo Group in a ??500 million deal. PA Photo. Issue date: Friday September 13, 2019. See PA story CITY SSE. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Ovo will ask its staff to apply for voluntary redundancy as it tries to shed 2,600 roles after the coronavirus crisis forced it to speed up integration plans, it said on Tuesday.

Around eight in 10 of these will be among the workers who came to Ovo as part of its £500m deal to buy SSE's retail arm.

The lion's share of the lost jobs will be among those who work out in the field, such as meter readers and home service engineers.

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‘There is never an easy time to announce redundancies and this is a particularly difficult decision to take,’ said chief executive Stephen Fitzpatrick. ‘But like all businesses, we face a new reality and need to adapt quickly to enable us to better-serve our customers and invest in a zero carbon future

Ovo said that the Covid-19 outbreak, which has forced many of its fieldworkers to stay at home, has accelerated changes that were already happening in the energy sector.

For instance, customers are now being forced to read their own meters.

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Mr Fitzpatrick said: ‘We are seeing a rapid increase in customers using digital channels to engage with us and, in our experience, once customers start to engage differently they do not go back.

‘As a result, we are expecting a permanent reduction in demand for some roles whilst other field-based roles are also heavily affected.’

Mr Fitzpatrick was expected to share the news in a live online town hall with thousands of employees this morning (Tuesday).

It is a big change for the Ovo founder, who has been more used to hiring people than firing them since setting the firm up in 2009.

Already among the biggest challengers on the energy market, Mr Fitzpatrick's business ballooned to become Britain's second biggest energy supplier after acquiring SSE.

At the time of the takeover was announced last September, Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire, said that he had been reassured during a meeting with SSE that there would be no job losses.

Ovo will also close two offices, in Glasgow and Reading, that it acquired as part of the SSE deal and a third, in Selkirk, that joined Ovo when it rescued Spark Energy in 2018.

The staff at these sites will be moved to new offices or be allowed to work from home.

SSE has a base in Havant and is one of Britain's so-called Big Six energy suppliers.

The announcement does not affect any SSE plc employees or its offices in Glasgow or Reading – only the Ovo offices at those sites will close.

Havant MP Alan Mak said he has been talking to the firm.

He said: ‘I am in touch with SSE, and the Havant site has not been listed for closure or compulsory redundancies. I hope voluntary redundancies are kept to a minimum.’

Gerry Crawley, UNISON regional organiser, said: ‘Any job loss at this time is deeply regrettable but UNISON will continue to work with SSE/OVO to try and ensure that any job losses are through a voluntary redundancy process. UNISON welcomes the fact that, through early engagement, 700 jobs that were going to be off shored to South Africa, will now be maintained within the UK.’

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