British Gas owner Centrica is set to cut 4,000 jobs by 2020 after blaming “political and regulatory intervention” for a huge fall in profit.
Full-year profits fell 17 per cent to £1.25bn as the energy supplier lost nine per cent of its domestic customers in the UK last year.
Centrica said the majority of job cuts will be in the UK, but did not disclose where the cuts will take place.
It currently employs 33,138 people worldwide and has over 2,600 staff based in the UK.
Centrica said on Thursday that investment in new technology would cut £1.25bn off costs annually until 2020 and is set to create 1,000 additional jobs across three departments within the next two years.
“The combination of political and regulatory intervention in the UK energy market, concerns over the loss of energy customers in the UK, and the performance issue in North America have created material uncertainty around Centrica and, although we delivered on our financial targets for the year, this resulted in a very poor shareholder experience,” said Centrica’s chief executive Iain Conn.
According to energy regulator Ofgem, a UK Government plan to cap the most common gas and electricity tariffs could come into effect by Christmas this year.
Prime Minister Theresa May in October vowed to tackle “rip-off energy prices”, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has argued for public ownership of Britain’s energy system.
Speaking to a parliamentary select committee in January, Ofgem chief executive Dermot Nolan said that for a cap on energy bills to come into force by the end of the year it would need to become law before politicians and lords break up for the summer recess in July.
Trade union Unite said it wants a “urgent meeting” with British Gas to discuss where job losses will take place, while Unison on Wednesday accused British Gas of squeezing staff and customers and said it expects “more misery to come” for Centrica workers.
“British Gas staff shouldn’t be feeling the heat today. It should be Centrica chief executive Iain Conn,” Unison national energy officer Matt Lay said.
GMB, the union representing gas workers, said Centrica chief executive Iain Conn must “immediately learn from the failure of other, now departed” bosses in the industry.
“We do not know where these potential job cuts will fall or if any sites of business units will be affected – but we will be obviously engage with British Gas urgently to understand these proposals”, said GMB national officer Stuart Fegan.
“Members will also question why a great institution such as British Gas has got itself in such a mess in such a short period of time”.
Hannah Maundrell, editor of financial services comparison website money.co.uk, said a hike in price and poor value standard tariffs led to British Gas losing millions of customers.
“With so many smaller up and coming companies snapping at their heels for a larger chunk of the market, British Gas have got their work cut out if they’re going to remain a key player in a competitive industry”, she said.
“People want low prices and good service, therefore British Gas will have to do something really innovative to keep up with newcomers”.
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