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Council leads taskforce to help 550 gas workers facing redundancy
A JOBS taskforce is being set up in a bid to find new employment for hundreds of British Gas workers in Southampton facing redundancy.
Dedicated phone lines are being set up and a team of experts is being sent to the firm to support the 550 staff who were told their jobs would go with the closure of the Dorset House call centre in the city.
Led by Southampton City Council, the four-person team will work alongside British Gas to help workers access training courses and benefit from Government retraining schemes.
It is hoped the taskforce will help them find work at other call centres in the city, get help with accommodation or other financial assistance available through Government grants.
Meanwhile the devastation at the news their jobs were being axed was etched on the faces of staff as they returned to work yesterday.
As reported by the Daily Echo staff were sent home after being given the news on Monday.
Speaking at the entrance to the St Mary’s Road centre that has been in the city for more than 20 years, some workers said they were still in shock.
Mary Lansdown, who has worked for the firm for seven years, said she had spent the night crying.
“I have got no idea what I will do,” she said. “I have had a look at the jobs market locally and there is nothing around. It is devastating. I have a disability as a result of an accident some years ago so what chance have I got to be taken on elsewhere?”
Complaint call handler Sarah Towler said both she and her husband were employed at the site and so were suffering a double blow.
“It is so unreal, we are absolutely devastated. They have been a good firm with a real sense of community around the place. It is so upsetting.”
Another worker who asked not to be named, said: “Whole families are going to be affected because mums, daughters, sisters and brothers all are employed here.”
Cost-cutting She and her colleagues were told that British Gas planned to close the Dorset House call centre by the end of the year as part of a cost-cutting review.
In an internal memo seen by the Daily Echo, the company, which posted £522m profits last year, said it had carried out a review of all of its sites in response to more customers using the Internet to contact them.
British Gas also said the site landlord had also given notice of plans to turn the building into student flats.
The company said that 50 jobs would transfer to Chandler’s Ford but that the majority of work would be moved to Leeds, Manchester and Cardiff.
Unions have vowed to fight the job cuts that will now form part of a 90-day consultation, while city MP John Denham described the news as “hugely disappointing”.