Hundreds of regional job losses are expected to be made by energy giant npower today following a drastic cost-cutting review of the business.
The firm, which employs more than 3,500 people across the North East, is due to announce redundancies to employees this morning – and it is thought that call centre operations at Peterlee, Thornaby and Stoke could close completely.
Its largest UK call centre in Houghton-le-Spring employs some 2,000 workers and a further 570 advisers are based in Thornaby, near Stockton, as well around 500 employees in Peterlee, County Durham.
The move comes after a number of cost-saving announcements from npower since its German owner RWE said 6,750 jobs would be cut across Europe.
It is understood that between 1,400 and 2,000 jobs are under threat because of outsourcing plans and moving work abroad – frontline call centre operations will be outsourced to a third party in the UK, with back-office work moved to India.
The move is likely to spark renewed anger from politicians over the state of the energy market, and soaring energy bills faced by consumers.
An npower spokesman said: “As we announced a couple of months ago, npower has been undertaking a major review of sites, operations and people across the UK.
“We’ve been doing this to improve our customer service and keep our costs down, at a time of external pressures on customers’ bills.”
The GMB union said sites at Peterlee, Thornaby and Stoke will close, but hopes have been reported that jobs could move to its Houghton operation.
Colin Smith, the GMB’s Northern Region senior organiser, said: “This is about cost of living, bad management and naked greed.
“Our lay representatives and members have been working hard for years with npower to make the North East sites return consistent profitability.”
Unison attacked the decision as a “Christmas nightmare for staff and customers”, and warned the company it will backfire badly by damaging its reputation further among UK customers.
Teesside MP Tom Blenkinsop said: “Given the awful news, it makes my gas and electricity bills petition in the Commons all the more timely.”