What now Norwich? Norwich Union job cuts

Comment on the latest case of call centre jobs "transferred" to India, and the trades union response to it, from Norwich Class War.

Submitted by PaulMarsh on September 15, 2006

The news that fresh forced redundancies at Norwich Union by Aviva can only have come with shocked resignation to many people in Norwich this morning, as they gained the knowledge via the media that the present culture of ‘offshoring’ jobs to India continues to wreak havoc on Norwich’s work force and call centre staff across the country.

Once again big business and industry are shafting workers and sending them up the River Wensum with concrete boots on.

850 jobs will be lost in Norwich alone, aswell as another 3,500 around the country as Aviva strive to mass profit at the expense of its employees livelihoods.

The other appalling job losses are likely to be in York, Glasgow, Sheffield, Cambridge, Perth, Newcastle, Eastleigh, Stevenage, Bristol, Worthing, Belfast and Birmingham.

Mass redundancies and the eradication of industry are nothing new to workers in Norwich. Once a thriving manufacturer of textiles and shoes the city faced massive job losses by companies searching for higher profits and lower wages from the third world which decimated local employment opportunities and destroyed a skilled workforce.

In the late 80’s and early 90’s the promise that workers could enjoy new prosperity and job security by working in the new call centres that were setting themselves up within Norwich’s walls came as a huge relief to many. Parents who were no longer able to sell their skilled labour were taken in by false hope that the future for their kids would be brighter.

Sickeningly enough Norwich Union once boasted it could give a job to every school leaver in the Norwich area but has announced large-scale redundancies on a regular basis in recent years as their hunger for shareholder profits heads to manipulate workers in Asia. All this comes amongst major change for the city and those that live there.

News recently was leaked of a venture to turn the City Hall into a 5 star hotel that could be seen across the landscape. Massive re-development has led to over priced and trendy apartments appearing across the city especially on the banks of the river, new shopping malls have sprung up putting the livelihoods of small corner shops at risk, every neighbourhood has been slandered with it’s share of asbo’s…..

The new entertainments industry has had a major boost with the development of the Riverside complex being created- a vast area of novelty chain pubs, clubs, bowling alleys and cinemas with heavy looking bouncers and practically it’s own section of the Norfolk Constabulary.

Trouble is, there are very few of Norwich’s working class who seem to be the ones enjoying these amazing feats of capitalist expansionism. And with news of yet more employment losses on the horizon the future is not looking good.

And Aviva blames the Internet NOT offshoring. Interesting.

Norwich Union's chief exec Mr Patrick Snowball blamed changes in consumer habits which meant the company was facing more and more competition.

"Consumers, independent financial advisers and brokers are increasingly operating in a self-service world. Customer's buying habits are changing rapidly as technology becomes more accessible, demonstrated by the fact that 50% of our new direct motor insurance policies are now bought online."

Aviva said the job cuts would save it £250m in 2008 and added that it was also planning to shut down 107 BSM driving school offices by 2007 as more people book their lessons online.

Well, what’s £250m when the company announced that half-year profits jumped by 27% to £1.7bn we might ask ourselves!

It might be interesting for those bullshit detectors in the trade unions to keep tabs on what actually goes on.

Speaking of the unions David Fleming, Amicus National Officer says:
"This is absolutely brutal and compulsory job cuts and offshoring will not be accepted by us or our members.
This is a betrayal of Norwich Union's long serving workforce who have woken up to news in the media this morning that their jobs are going, rather than hear it from their employer.

The fact that they are offshoring half of the work and sub-contracting some of that will have service implications for customers as well as staff.

They are treating their staff with contempt and clearly have more regard for their shareholder profits then their UK workforce."

Sadly Mr.Fleming failed to point out that most staff at Norwich Union are not unionised as his union officials are quite clearly useless. The author of this article today approached ten employees at NU to ask whether they were in Amicus and most either replied ‘No’ or ‘what’s a Union?’. Terrible but true.

One young worker asked
“What is the point in giving a trade union £100 per annum? If I want to waste my money I can take it down the pub and piss it up a wall on the way home!”

He also went on to point out that staff were being advised against talking to journalists and were being heavily scripted whilst on the phones...allegedly by both the employer and by Amicus itself...

With such fighting talk from Amicus we wonder then what exactly the union leaders at the TUC conference plan to do about this?

Call a mass strike of Amicus and associated trade unionists? Never! That’s more than their Norwich Union pensions are worth!

Both Aviva and Amicus reps declined to be interviewed by Class War.

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