Urgent talks over TXU job losses

UNION representatives are today seeking urgent talks with power bosses following the news that almost three quarters of the staff at TXU are to lose their jobs.

UNION representatives are today seeking urgent talks with power bosses following the news that almost three quarters of the staff at TXU are to lose their jobs.

Powergen, which took over the retail business in October, dropped the bombshell that only 250 people would remain working for it in Ipswich – at present 936 are employed here.

The news was broken on the Evening Star's website www.eveningstar.co.uk late yesterday.

Today officials from UNISON, the union which represents most of the workers at the company, were seeking talks with Powergen bosses.

The job losses are much harsher than was originally expected and are a hammer blow for Ipswich, according to civic leaders.

Dismayed MP Chris Mole said he would seek talks with Powergen, new owners of the fallen energy giant.

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Mr Mole was left stunned after the Coventry-based company announced the extent of the job losses.

He said: "I'm very concerned that the number of job losses is far bigger than what I thought might be the case from the discussions I have held with Powergen.

"I fear this is going to plunge us into the realms of compulsory redundancy.

"About 700 jobs will be quite a number to be absorbed into the local economy.

"I will be expressing my concern to Powergen."

Energy bosses stunned Ipswich yesterday when it announced just under 700 retail workers would be axed – news revealed on our 24-hour web service.

But Nick Horler, Powergen's retail managing director, defended his company's decision.

He said: "It's a difficult process to go through, but there are good reasons why we have taken it and we have explained it to people."

Mr Horler said the jobs would be shed gradually over the course of the year to leave 250 in place in Ipswich by the end of 2003.

The retained staff will be based either at the company's Wherstead Park site or the state-of-the-art Russell Road building – once earmarked at TXU HQ, but now set to be occupied by Suffolk County Council.

Mr Horler refused to be drawn on the subject of compulsory redundancies. He said: "Wherever possible, we have a policy of voluntary severance.

"I have no reports of much upset from staff, I think they appreciated the fact that we have been up front with this announcement.

"They also appreciate if we hadn't stepped in and bought the company redundancies and pensions would not have been available."

Counselling and job seeking advice will be provided for TXU workers set to lose their jobs.

Paul Clement, head of Ipswich Partnership, described the job losses as a "big blow," but still found reasons to be cheerful.

He said: "It's not a reflection on the town and it's not systematic of what is happening in the town.

"A number of businesses are thinking about the town for expansion or relocation."

Ipswich Council's chief executive James Hehir described the announcement as "disappointing news."

He said: "Our concerns are with those employees who will need to find new work.

"Many of us have family connections with Eastern Electricity, as it was known, or TXU, as it is.

"Unfortunately, we cannot turn the clock back, but the council will help in any way it can to bring extra employment into Ipswich."

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