OVO Energy is to close its Perth office as part of a move to cut 1,700 jobs across the UK.
The firm is launching a voluntary redundancy programme for its 6,200 workers as part of plans to consolidate operations with just three offices in London, Bristol and Glasgow.
Sky News first broke the news that OVO is expected to make an announcement about the redundancies on Thursday but so far the firm has declined to comment publicly.
‘Huge amount’ of jobs being cut at OVO
Most staff are currently working from home, and the number of redundancies in Perth has not been confirmed.
One worker told The Courier: “I think there is a bit of shock in all honesty.
“People have always perhaps expected there to be something coming along but not necessarily to this extent.
“1,700 is still a huge amount of staff in the organisation across the UK, which is approximately one in four.
Very concerned to hear today that @OVOEnergy plan to close their office in Perth this year. It is a major local employer and this will be a substantial blow to the Perthshire economy.
— Murdo Fraser (@murdo_fraser) January 13, 2022
“There’s a consolidation of sites. They are leaving Perth and other offices to move into a brand new site in Glasgow.
“People are just deciding now whether they want voluntary redundancy packages or not.”
The SSE office at the same site is unaffected.
As well as the OVO job losses, it has also sparked fears about the knock-on effect on the local economy.
Ellean Bauchope, manager of Mhor Coffee, said: “I feel the closure of local branches of big businesses not only impacts jobs in the immediate sense, but will also reduce footfall for local businesses such as us.
“It’s difficult enough to increase customer turnout, and without commuting office workers, we’re already seeing a dramatic drop in early morning business.
“We have been forced to open later due to the local offices working remotely, and no doubt trade will drop further. It’s a very sad thing for everyone involved.”
The company took over the retail arm of energy firm SSE in 2020.
One Perth resident, Elizabeth Davies, said: “I’ve lived here for decades and SSE/OVO have been there the whole time.
“It’s really devastating for the Perth economy.
“What are these poor people going to do? What a time to think about losing your job.
“It’s really sickening to be honest.
“A few of my daughter’s friends work there and it is just tragic. What a loss.”
Others pointed out OVO is one of the biggest private employers in the city.
Ryan Atkinson said: “My pals work there and it’s really bad.
“Everyone is freaking out and not sure what to do.
“It’s such a big employer as well, so where are they going to go now?
“Pretty scary times.”
Andrew Wilson said: “It’s such a daunting time as it is at the moment.
“Covid has caused everything to change so much and now this.
“OVO are one of the biggest employers around here. So sad for people and their families. It’s a horrid thought. My thoughts go out to the employees.”
Firm shuts customer phone lines
OVO shut its phone lines on Thursday, with a message telling customers that workers are being updated about “some important news”.
After taking over, OVO later made staff, including some workers in Perth, redundant – but claimed it was maintaining a “significant workforce” in the city.
The firm faced criticism earlier this week for telling customers to cuddle their pets to keep warm this winter.
‘We will do everything to defend members’ jobs’
Union bosses have hit out at the latest reports of job cuts.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “We will do everything in our power to defend our members’ jobs.
“All and every option will be on the table. As a first step the company must now open the books to union experts.
Change is never good and especially not at this sort of level
“We will not sit by and watch our members being made to pay the price of the pandemic.”
The worker added: “All staff have just been briefed; there’s a lot to read through and consider.
“Change is never good and especially at this sort of level. With it being such a large number of staff, it will be interesting to watch if they have to go down the compulsory route at the end of the day.”
How are people reacting?
Conservative councillor John Duff, convener of Perth and Kinross Council‘s strategic policy and resources committee, has accused OVO of a “clear breach” of promises it made previously.
He said: “The loss of the Perth office is a major blow for its employees and for Perth and Kinross.
“It will be a very worrying time for everyone involved and I will be asking what support can be provided to help employees.”
Scottish Labour group councillor Alasdair Bailey told The Courier: “It’s always awful to hear about job losses, especially on the scale of those that were announced today across the UK by OVO Energy.
Some of the justification given for the job losses has been related to the current energy crisis… I find that concerning
Councillor Alasdair Bailey
“Locally, my hope is that the affected workers get a fair deal and I hear that the unions are already hard at work scrutinising this announcement on behalf of their members.
“It’s also important to remember that SSE is keeping its base at Perth so this isn’t the end of the line for energy jobs in this area.
“Some of the justification given for the job losses has been related to the current energy crisis.
“I find that concerning because folk will need more support and guidance from their energy provider during this time of record high prices and not less.”