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Call centre to close with loss of 500 jobs
WORKERS were left shocked after learning that 500 jobs will be lost as an insurance company announced plans to close its North-East call centre.
Churchill, a member of the Direct Line Group, a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, plans to axe 890 jobs around the country as the company looks to save £100m – but Teesside is taking the greatest hit.
Yesterday, the vast majority of workers at the centre on Teesdale Park, Thornaby , near Stockton, were given the day off following the announcement, which was made personally by managing director Darrell Evans.
He told The Northern Echo: “Obviously all of the staff were shocked by the announcement which is why I came up here today.
“We have proposed the closure of the Teesside site and we will now start a threemonth consultation process, with the expected result that the site will close by June next year.
“We are supporting staff in whatever way we can and that is why I am here. We will help them to find jobs within the group if we can, but we will also be working with other local employers to try to find work for them there.”
The decision also shocked politicians across the area, with Stockton South MP James Wharton raising concerns with Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, when they met yesterday afternoon.
He said: “Vince was keen to be helpful and said the department would look to support our Local Enterprise Partnership in working to minimise the impact of today’s bad news.
“When I visited the call centre only a matter of weeks ago I found the staff hard working, dedicated and efficient.
There is no doubt many people there have the right skills to find new employment and everyone must work together to ensure as many as possible are successful in securing new jobs.”
Alex Cunningham, Stockton North MP, added: “This is a devastating blow to 500 workers and families on Teesside at a time when unemployment in our area is continuing to rise year on year and the number of new jobs created is comparatively small.
“It saddens me that this is yet another knife in the back of Teesside which seems to be an easy target for Government departments and others when it comes to job losses.
“Recently it’s been the DVLA, the Insolvency Service and Public Lending Rights Service that have been targeted and all on top of the public sector jobs in local authorities and the NHS. Now the stateowned RBS has targeted our region.
Councillor Bob Cook, leader of Stockton Council, said: “We are completely surprised to hear of these job losses.
This is absolutely devastating news for the employees of Direct Line as well as their families.
“We have asked to meet Direct Line representatives to understand more about the situation and target our help as quickly and effectively as possible.”
North East Chamber of Commerce chief executive James Ramsbotham said: “This is a real blow to the Stockton economy and our sympathies are with the people who will be affected by this announcement by Direct Line. It is particularly disappointing for this to happen at a time when the region’s service sector appears to be beginning to recover following some challenging times.”