Energy giant SSE is planning to cut over 400 jobs in its retail sector, with the supplier blaming various challenges it’s facing in the industry.
The Big Six energy supplier, employing around 22,000 UK staff, announced on Wednesday that affected employees will be offered voluntary redundancies. Staff involved with smart meter installations and customer service are expected to be affected.
It is believed that a total of 444 jobs are set to be axed. SSE, a FTSE 100 listed company, have blamed the cuts on various factors including increased competition in the market, higher wholesale costs and the introduction of the government’s price cap at the beginning of this year.
“Like a number of suppliers, we are facing challenges due to competition increasing, the introduction of the energy price cap and higher operating costs,” said Tony Keeling, chief operating officer and co-head of retail at SSE. “To run a sustainable business, we need to become more efficient and ensure we have the right number of employees in the right locations to best serve our customers.
“We are committed to engaging and consulting openly and transparently with colleagues, our trade union partners and appropriate employee representative and have today announced voluntary enhanced redundancy opportunities for some of our customer service and metering teams.”
Unite, one of the largest trade unions in the UK and with over 4,000 members employed by SSE, said the planned cuts were due to a lack of consumer interest in smart meter installations, despite the benefits they could bring in helping to reduce energy expenditure. Under the government’s rollout, every home and small business in the UK should be offered a smart meter installation by the end of 2020. But just last month, the regulator Ofgem fined SSE £700,000 for failing to meet installation targets last year.
“Today’s announcement by SSE Retail is disappointing, but not unexpected,” said Peter McIntosh, Unite’s national officer for energy and utilities. “Unite will oppose any attempts by the company to introduce compulsory redundancies. Demand for smart meters to be fitted in households has not reached the levels expected by the company – hence the job losses announced by the SSE retail sector.
“The situation is as a result of yet another failed government policy. The smart metering programme should not have been left to the energy companies, as the 2020 deadline looms for every home in Britain to be offered a smart meter. We will continue to work constructively with the SSE management to ensure we retain as many of the skilled workers as possible and we have been working with the company to avoid this situation over the last six months. Unfortunately, the situation has not improved over that time.”
SSE is currently looking to spin off its retail division, either through a sale or with a merger partner. In December 2018, the firm called off its proposed merger with rival Big Six supplier npower, blaming the introduction of the energy price cap among other factors. SSE announced last year it had lost 460,000 customers in the year to September, due to an ‘intensely competitive’ market.