Job cuts at Npower. Expropriate the energy industry!

Submitted by AWL on 3 December, 2013 - 7:48

Energy giant Npower has said it will make 1,460 staff redundant. Their jobs will be outsourced overseas.

Offices in Stoke, Peterlee, Thornaby in Teesside, and Oldbury in the West Midlands are being shut. Other affected sites are in the north east and Leeds. 540 office workers will be transferred to Capita.

Workers being made redundant are back office workers; the workers being transferred are call centre staff. There may be more redundancies, sell offs and outsourcing, which will effect thousands more staff.

Despite Npower’s Gernman parent group RWE being in trouble, profits are still being made in Britain. The CEO Paul Massara is still in line for a £150,000 bonus on top of his large salary.

Jobs are going to workers in India (Tata Consulting Services) because those workers get paid less then a fifth of the UK wage. Kevin Coyne from Unite has called it “naked greed”.

The three unions at Npower — Unite, GMB, and Unison — have put out statements condemning the job losses and are discussing possible industrial action. However as confidence among the workforce is low, a key role can be played by campaigners taking on Npower in a visible public way.

Putting on pressure over the job losses as well as highlighting the company’s tax avoidance, rising energy prices and its part in the destruction of the environment is all necessary. There has already been a demonstration outside the central London office in Threadneedle Street. We need protests at other sites.

This will help workers see they are not fighting this alone and cut against a racist narrative that Indian workers are to blame instead of politicians, bosses and the capitalist system. Exploitation may be sharper in India but workers in Britain have common interests with workers everywhere, against bosses regardless of nationality.

The Labour Party has recently been bashing the Big Six energy companies over rising prices. They have promised a 20 month price freeze whilst the big six energy companies are broken up. The coalition have struggled for a response.

The Big Six including Npower have lobbied the government to remove certain green obligations and levies. The government has now caved and agreed to ease the timetable on the obligation to fit insulation and to pay some green levies out of general taxation.
This does not address either profiteering or job losses. The unions should pressure Ed Miliband and Labour to condemn these job losses and demand immediate public ownership of Npower and the whole energy sector.

There are practical things socialists, environmental campaigners and trade unionists can do now to support the workers. Organise demos outside Npower offices, power stations and depots. Pass motions, have meetings and send out petitions, linking job cuts with fuel poverty and environmental degradation.

We need to defend every job and at the same time campaign for social ownership of the energy sector.