More jobs could go in town

IPSWICH has today been declared as a jobs in jeopardy "hotspot" as up to 50 Norwich Union workers join the call centre at risk list.The announcement, as revealed in yesterday's Evening Star, by Royal Sun Alliance to close the More Th>n call centre in Ipswich with the loss of 240 jobs in the town came on the same day that Norwich Union's parent company Aviva, said it was axing 2,350 jobs nationwide to "outsource" them to parts of India.

IPSWICH has today been declared as a jobs in jeopardy "hotspot" as up to 50 Norwich Union workers join the call centre at risk list.

The announcement, as revealed in yesterday's Evening Star, by Royal Sun Alliance to close the More Th>n call centre in Ipswich with the loss of 240 jobs in the town came on the same day that Norwich Union's parent company Aviva, said it was axing 2,350 jobs nationwide to "outsource" them to parts of India.

With More Th>n's 240 jobs, plus the threat to 50 Norwich Union jobs from the Crown Street offices in Ipswich, it has brought a strong reaction from the union, Amicus.

Mark Robinson the local branch rep for Amicus said: "The threat to Ipswich jobs has put the town in the hotspot category and we are totally opposed to the outsourcing abroad of all these jobs.


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"The financial sector has been big in Ipswich and all these jobs under threat at the same time is devastating. The Ipswich offices of Norwich Union employs 220 people and we have been told 50 of those could go.

"Although the company has not given us exact details of which branches will be affected we understand the above figure to be correct, and we will know more tomorrow after meeting management," Mr Robinson said.

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Royal Sun Alliance is closing call centres in Ipswich and at Hinckley in Leicestershire but increasing the size of its other More Th>an operations across the country.

It is not outsourcing any of these jobs and employees will be given help to either relocate to any of the group's other offices or be helped to retrain and find alternative work, the company said yesterday.

The loss of so many financial sector jobs in Ipswich has come as another blow to the town which this year has suffered other white collar cuts at TXU Energi and Agilent.

However, Simon Meecham, economic development manager of Ipswich Borough Council, and Chris Mole the town's MP believe there is hope a number of people who loose their jobs may find others in the town.

Mr Meecham, said: "There's potentially some good news coming from other insurance companies in Ipswich who are recruiting and who will be recruiting many more people in the future," he said.

"It's important to remember that a number of staff have been retained in Ipswich and we've still got a sizeable presence in the town."

An event for insurance workers was being held at Ipswich Town's Portman Road stadium at 10am today.

Mr Mole said: "This news is a blow following on from the cuts earlier this year at TXU and Agilent but the Suffolk economy is buoyant and I am certain this will help see us through.

"Nationally it is estimated that 200,000 jobs are being sent off-shore but there is every indication that around here there will be plenty of other opportunity for the Ipswich staff whose jobs are under threat. There is the real hope they will find something else, whether it be elsewhere in this country or by staying in Suffolk."

Mr Mole said that no time was ever going to be a good time to know your livelihood was under threat but at Christmas time it was an even bigger blow.

UNION bosses at Norwich Union have said they are prepared to back their furious members if they decide to strike over threatened job cuts.

Aviva has said operating costs in India were typically 30-40 per cent lower than in the UK and that the move would also help it provide 24-hour services.

But Amicus has vowed to fight the proposals.

Its officials have said there could be 500 compulsory redundancies, a figure that Aviva disputes.

National secretary David Fleming said: "We will view this as the start of the consultation process."

He said a similar consultation process had encouraged the firm Prudential to back down when it had announced to take jobs overseas.

He said it was time for the Government to look into the practice of companies moving jobs out of the UK.

"In five or ten years we are going to end up as a nation of fat cats and shelf stackers with nothing in between," he went on.

Aviva already has offices in Delhi and Bangalore, where about 1,200 staff process general insurance claims.

The time difference between the UK and India would allow the company to move to round-the-clock claims processing and administration, Aviva claims.

But Mr Fleming said the country did not necessarily have the electronic infrastructure or political stability to guarantee long term gains.

"I don't want this company to offshore out to India and then find it is not all its cracked up to be and to come back and find the skills have gone."

Unions have warned that up to 200,000 jobs in the finance sector could leave the UK over the next five years as companies take advantage of cheaper labour costs abroad.

Average call centre salaries in the UK are about £12,500 a year, compared with £1,200 in India.

The company hopes the bulk of the cuts will come through natural staff turnover or voluntary redundancies.

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