VIRGIN is axing more than 100 jobs by closing part of its operation in the region. Yesterday afternoon the company, which provides television and broadband internet cable services, announced the closure of the telesales department on the Team Valley trading estate, Gateshead, from April next year.
The plan leaves 113 staff on notice of redundancy. The company, which employs 500 people in the region, said it intended to start a three-month formal consultation process with those affected. It is hoped some of the workers can be transferred to other departments.
Earlier this month, Virgin Media announced it was axing 2,200 jobs in the UK after weeks of speculation in the media.
In March last year, the company was involved in a row with BSkyB which hit the number of its subscribers.
The group estimated 40,000 customers were lost because of Sky’s removal of its basic channels from the Virgin Media television platform.
An insider, who works as a manager in the threatened department, said: “We have seen this coming for a while, to be honest. Morale has been low, everyone has been worried about their jobs.
“It’s not the best time to be made redundant just before Christmas, but at least we know what is happening now.”
In a statement released yesterday, Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media, said: “Although this is a difficult message for our staff just before Christmas, we felt it only right to share our plans with them as soon as this proposal had been confirmed. The proposal to close the telesales function in Gateshead fits in with our strategy and long-term plans to create a better, more effective organisation. Our priority now is to support our staff and retain as much talent in our business at this site as possible.
“We’re already anticipating redeployment opportunities in our National Movers Centre, based at this site in Gateshead, so we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to redeploy some of those affected by today’s announcement and reduce the need for redundancies.” A spokeswoman for the Communication Workers Union, which represents Virgin Media workers, said: “We are very concerned about the job losses announced by Virgin Media. We have pushed the company hard to ensure that voluntary redundancies are available to alleviate the effect on individuals. We understand that the telesales centre in Gateshead is not due to close until April 2009. We will be in talks with employees during that time to explain all options that are open to staff and ensure that compulsory redundancies are a last resort. We would urge anyone who is concerned to contact the union for representation.”
In 2006, Virgin Media bought the NTL Telewest cable company. Virgin, at that time still trading as NTL-Telewest, made a cash and shares offer for ITV in November of the same year, valuing the company at £4.7bn.
The bid was rejected days after Virgin’s satellite rival, BSkyB, spent £940m buying a 17.9% stake in ITV.
It’s not the best time to be made redundant before Christmas, but at least we know what is happening