OVO Energy, one of the largest gas and electricity energy suppliers in the country is set to close offices and make 2,600 members of staff redundant. The provider claims the lockdown has pushed forward the cost-cutting measures.
Earlier this year, OVO Energy bought SSE’s retail division, making it the UK’s second largest provider of gas and electricity. OVO continues to use the SSE brand name, even after acquiring the company, under the contractual terms of sale. Originally, the company planned to reduce staff numbers through automating customer services, however, the coronavirus pandemic has meant that these plans have been accelerated.
The firm will shut down operations in Glasgow, Reading and Selkirk. Additionally, redundancies are also expected to take place at its offices in Cardiff, Cumbernauld and Perth. In terms of the actual job losses, around 1,000 customer service staff working in call centres will be let go, along with a further 1,000 meter readers. With smart meters being rolled out to homes across Britain, there will be a reduction of people needing to visit customers at their homes, as the process now gathers automated data. Since the lockdown began in March, no visits to homes have taken place, hence the plans mentioned above being pushed forward.
As the company reduces SSE’s customer support services, a further announcement also took place the same day; 215 boiler repair technicians and electricians are also set to lose their OVO jobs.
Stephen Fitzpatrick, Founder and Chief Executive of OVO Energy, stated: "Today is a very difficult day. We have a brilliant team here and this news isn't a reflection of anyone's work. What should have been a much longer process to digitise the SSE business and integrate it with OVO has been accelerated due to the impact of the coronavirus.”
"We are seeing a rapid increase in customers using digital channels to engage with us, and in our experience, once customers start to engage differently, they do not go back. As a result, we are expecting a permanent reduction in demand for some roles, whilst other field-based roles are also heavily affected.”
"There is never an easy time to announce redundancies and this is a particularly difficult decision to take. But like all businesses, we face a new reality and need to adapt quickly to enable us to better serve our customers and invest in a zero-carbon future."
The energy supplier has insisted that it wanted to work with staff unions to manage the job cuts and “minimise the need for compulsory redundancies". Although unions were disgruntled with the decisions made, they were pleased that plans for 700 jobs to be moved overseas to South Africa were scrapped.
OVO Energy was founded in 2009. The company has placed a key emphasis on supplying energy efficiently through the use of technology. Last year, around 20 smaller energy providers from a list of more than 60 Ofgem accredited suppliers were forced out of business as they were no longer able to compete. Unsurprisingly, this has benefited OVO and the rest of the ‘Big Six’, a phrase used to describe the country’s six largest energy providers.