Talks with OVO bosses over the future of jobs in Perth and Dunfermline have been described as disappointing.
Last week, the energy firm announced it is closing its offices in the region.
This is despite the energy company promising there would be no job losses when it bought over SSE’s retail arm in January 2020.
It went on to make 2,600 people redundant only four months later.
Perthshire politicians arranged to meet bosses at OVO to discuss the redundancies, and to see whether or not the decision could be overturned.
This meeting was scheduled for Wednesday 19 January and ended up being called off and rescheduled at the last minute because of a change in OVO’s diary commitments.
However, the meeting which was eventually held on Friday morning, was described as “hugely disappointing”, and the politicians say it appears the energy company did not even consider making Perth its Scottish hub.
The meeting involved John Swinney, MSP for Perthshire North, and Jim Fairlie, MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire. It was also joined by Pete Wishart, MP for Perth and North Perthshire.
When OVO first bought SSE retail, they talked a good game.”
– Jim Fairlie
They met virtually with Adrian Letts, the CEO of OVO’s retail arm.
Earlier, Mr Fairlie called for Stephen Fitzpatrick, who heads up OVO, to personally attend the meeting to answer their questions.
After the meeting, Mr Fairlie said: “I am hugely disappointed OVO founder and chief executive Stephen Fitzpatrick did not make himself available to answer serious questions about the planned closure of the Perth office.
“When OVO first bought SSE retail, they talked a good game in relation to their relationship with their workforce, but that was not particularly evident at our meeting.
“I questioned OVO on their commitment to Perth, and asked them if they had considered basing their new national hub here, but it would appear that they failed to give consideration to Perth as their Scottish base.”
OVO ‘unwilling’ to share basic information
The three politicians say OVO was unable to offer any real clarification on where the redundancies will be, particularly if they do not get enough employees coming forward for voluntary redundancies.
Mr Swinney said they made “repeated attempts” to get answers out of OVO on whether or not there will be compulsory redundancies, but were told they did not have an answer at this stage.
He added: “It is very unsatisfactory that OVO are either unwilling or unable to share with us basic information regarding any potential escalation of a voluntary redundancy scheme.
“A well-thought-out business proposal would account for the fact that there may not be a full uptake of the voluntary redundancy programme within the workforce, and would therefore have contingency plans in place for this eventuality.”
Mr Wishart added: “They were unable to confirm whether or not they would need to pursue compulsory redundancies should a small number of staff opt to leave their positions voluntarily.
“As OVO is one of Perth’s largest private employers. It is absolutely critical that they provide further clarity about the employment security of their Perth-based staff, and that they do so quickly.”
Second OVO meeting scheduled
Following the “disappointing” meeting, the three SNP politicians are now scheduling in a second meeting with OVO for early February.
Once again, they are requesting Mr Fitzpatrick attends this meeting, saying a second absence from the CEO would be a “real slap in the face” to those affected by the announcement.
Mr Fairlie said: “I sincerely hope that Stephen Fitzpatrick will attend our meeting in early February, when more is known about the numbers of staff who wish to consider voluntary redundancy.
“A failure to come forward and answer the most basic questions about his business would be a real slap in the face to the workforce.”
OVO ‘committed’ to Scotland
In response to the politicians’ comments, OVO Energy says it is “committed” to Scotland, and adds one of the reasons for the office closures is they are now being “underused” because people have been working-from-home during the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokesperson for OVO said: “Scotland is a great place for our business, which is why we’re making it an operational centre of excellence, and one of our three office locations.
“We are opening a new OVO academy in Glasgow, creating opportunities in the city that hosted COP26, for those who want to be at the forefront of the UK’s green revolution.
“While we’re closing some of our offices, there is an opportunity for remote working.
“The pandemic has changed the way we work, and many of our offices are underused with people already working remotely.
“We’re committed to investing in Scotland – creating higher skilled, better paid jobs in Scotland.”