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MSPs slam OVO Energy bosses over ‘utter betrayal’ of Perth workers

Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO of OVO Energy, and Jim Fairlie, MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire
Stephen Fitzpatrick, CEO of OVO Energy, and Jim Fairlie, MSP for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire

MSPs have slammed OVO Energy bosses for the “disappointing betrayal” of hundreds of workers in Perth and Dunfermline.

The Scottish Parliament debated a motion by Perthshire South and Kinross-shire MSP Jim Fairlie on Tuesday noting with regret the companies decision to seek 1,700 voluntary redundancies and close several of its offices across the UK.

OVO currently employs around 700 people in Perth alone, and Mr Fairlie’s motion notes the energy firm could have used the city for its new training academy.

The SNP MSP called for greater clarity on what will happen should the company fail to reach sufficient numbers of voluntary redundancies.

His motion said the current treatment of staff represents “a disappointing betrayal of a hard-working, committed workforce”.

Energy supplier SSE announced in September 2019 that was selling its retail business to OVO, with some 8,000 staff to be transferred in January 2020.

MSP says assurances have been broken

Mr Fairlie told the Parliament that local politicians received assurances from OVO when the takeover was announced that there would be no job losses.

However, the latest round of redundancies comes two years after the company laid off hundreds of workers – just four months after the deal was completed.

Jim Fairlie.

Mr Fairlie said: “Time and time again both companies, SSE and OVO, gave repeated reassurances to staff across the country that no redundancies would happen, jobs were safe, customer service was a priority and that this talented committed workforce were at the heart of that quality service delivery.

“Both companies have utterly betrayed that workforce.”

The SNP MSP has called for Stephen Fitzpatrick, OVO’s founder and chief executive, to meet with him and other local politicians to explain why the company can no longer stand by assurances given in 2019.

Fears of compulsory job losses

Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser agrees OVO has broken its promises.

He believes from his dealings with the company that it is unlikely it will reverse the decision, so attention should instead be focused on ensuring compulsory redundancies are not introduced.

“OVO has said they are seeking to make job losses through voluntary redundancy but we don’t know whether these job cuts could become compulsory if insufficient volunteers come forward,” Mr Fraser said.

Murdo Fraser, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife.

“We believe that there are currently around 700 people in Perth employed by OVO.

“The loss of these jobs would be a huge blow to local families and the wider Perthshire economy.”

Mr Fraser said the company has pledged to look at his request for staff to be allowed to work from home rather than having to relocate to a new hub in Glasgow.

A ‘great blow’ to staff

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said last month her ministers would do “everything they possibly can” to convince OVO to reverse its decision.

Public finance minister Tom Arthur said news of the closures came as a “great blow” to staff after the company was “very vocal” about praising the workforce it inherited.

He said: “Unfortunately, as is the case with other companies, we cannot force OVO to reverse the decisions it is making but we can work to ensure that the outcomes for those affected are as favourable as possible.

“Our priority, as always as in situations such as this, is the workforce at the affected sites, and we have acted quickly to ensure that our partnership action for continuing employment (PACE) initiative is engaged with OVO.”

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