Call centre staff agress to wage cuts

Call centre staff at utility company Npower have agreed to pay cuts and
freezes in a bid to save their jobs.

Saudagar Singh, HR director at Npower, said the pay deal involved staff at
three new call centres acquired when the company bought Northern Electric and
Gas in September 2001.

Employees at the call centres in the North East voted by two to one to
accept a deal which will bring their pay in line with the group’s other centres
throughout the country.

Singh said Npower had to take action because overall costs at the new sites
were 25 per cent higher than at other customer service centres, largely due to
wage bills. He explained that the company wanted to keep the centres open, but
the only way to do this was to cut wage bills.

Last August, the company started talking to the unions, explaining that it
needed to cut costs.

"We are very pleased with the outcome. It shows that if you work hard,
common sense prevails. We were not rushed [during negotiations], and were
sensible and pragmatic. We now have an economically sustainable and viable
business," said Singh.

Throughout the consultation process, staff were kept fully informed via
face-to-face briefings with managers, internal bulletins, question and answer
sessions, information on the intranet and a feedback e-mail address.

Managers were also fully briefed on the status of the process and given
information so they could answer staff questions on a one-to-one basis.

After negotiations, staff had the option to vote for new starters to start
on less, and for other staff to face wage freezes for up to four years, or take
a reduction in pay of up to 5 per cent.

By Quentin Reade

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