MORE than 600 jobs could go as Worcester's Npower call centre is under threat of closure.

Energy giant Npower has announced plans to restructure its UK business, leading to the loss of up to 4,500 jobs and the closure of a number of call centres.

The news was described as a "body blow" by unions, especially coming just weeks before Christmas.

Npower has a call centre in Worcester, which employs more than 600 people.

Workers were given details at briefings today, with the company

saying it was facing an "unsustainable business situation" which has

persisted for a number of years.

The job losses will take place over the next two years, mainly at call centres.

Npower has seven other call centres - Rainton, near Sunderland, which employs around 2,000 staff; Hull; Leeds; Birmingham; Solihull; Oldbury and Swindon.

Johannes Teyssen, chief executive of Npower's owner, E.ON, said: "The UK market is currently particularly challenging. We've emphasised

repeatedly that we'll take all necessary action to return our business

there to consistent profitability.

"For this purpose, we've put together proposals and already begun

discussing them with British unions."

E.ON UK chief executive Michael Lewis said: "With Npower becoming part of the new E.ON - creating the second largest supplier in the UK - we

need to build a sustainable business with a lower cost base that allows

us to compete in this extremely challenging market.

"We are proposing a number of steps to create an E.ON business that can

be both sustainable and successful for the future whilst also fully

supporting and serving our customers today.

"For Npower and its employees, these proposals will mean significant

changes. We're aware of the impact these proposals will have and there

will be appropriate levels of employee support at this time.

"Npower will now consult and work with with trade unions and employee

representatives on all these proposals and we are committed to

mitigating impact on colleagues.

"The background to these decisions is of course the unprecedented

upheaval in the energy market. In the last 18 months we have seen almost

one third of suppliers going bust or continuing to operate at a loss.

"What we're announcing today is our response to this difficult situation

in order to remain sustainable."

"I also want to reassure customers of both E.ON and Npower that they

should not worry about the energy they need for their homes and


"Nothing changes to your account today and your energy supplies remain

safe and secure in our hands.

"We will be in touch with all of our customers in the coming months to

let them know exactly what is happening and what it means for them.

"The proposals we've outlined today are in no way a reflection of

Npower's people, who I know work hard to serve customers each and every day.

"It's clear that only companies that undergo a major transformation and

keep cost efficiency as a key focus will succeed in the current market

and regulatory climate.

"These proposals give us an opportunity to build a successful,

sustainable business so we can continue with our purpose to lead the

energy transition in the UK, delivering excellent customer service and

build lasting customer relationships based on smart, sustainable and

personalised energy solutions."

A GMB spokesman said: "Clearly this announcement will be a body blow to Npower workers across the UK.

"The Government has to urgently wake up to the impact that the price cap

is having on good and reasonably well-paid jobs in UK energy companies.

"Npower is a poorly managed company with significant losses in the UK

but it's always the workers that face the brunt of poor management

coupled with regulation that sends work overseas whilst sacking energy

workers in the UK."

E.ON said it was stepping up its "ambitious cost-cutting efforts"

without losing sight of its customers, adding: "This is based on leaner,

increasingly digital processes that also improve the customer


A company spokesman said: "It is only right and fair that colleagues are

informed first of any possible changes and we will be making no further

comment at this time."

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "This is a cruel blow for

Npower employees. They've been worried about their jobs for months. Now their worst fears have been realised, less than a month before Christmas.

"The UK energy market is in real danger of collapse. If nothing is done,

there could soon be other casualties.

"Npower's demise means there's no time to waste. It makes the powerful

case for bringing the retail arms of the Big Six energy firms into

public ownership.

"This would preserve jobs, ensure customers get a better deal and allow

the UK to meet its carbon neutral targets."