'We don't know anything': Aviva staff in the dark over 1,800 job losses
PUBLISHED: 09:19 06 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:06 06 June 2019
Staff have said they had "no idea" redundancies were on the horizon at Aviva, as the insurance giant announced it was axing 1,800 jobs.
Employees at the Surrey Street head office of Aviva General Insurance said they "knew nothing about the redundancies", and were in a state of shock.
The company said it will look to ensure that redundancies are kept to a minimum and has engaged with Unite and employee representative bodies and will continue to consult on proposals.
When asked by this newspaper for an interview with senior managers, Aviva declined.
The redundancies will take place over the next three years, in a bid to reduce expenses by £300m per year by 2022.
Norwich South MP Clive Lewis said: "I cannot tell you how concerned I am. I understand the history of Aviva and how integral it is to the city.
"I don't want to be a merchant of doom and gloom but I imagine there are very many people in Norwich who work there, and their families and friends, who have a very nervous few weeks ahead. My thoughts are with those employees who now have this sword of Damocles over them.
"On the back of Heatrae Sadia, Britvic and Unilever, there is a worrying trend that is taking place in terms of quality jobs that Norwich depends on, not just for the individuals, but for the city's economic viability. When those jobs go out of the city it is very difficult to get the same calibre of jobs to replace them.
"I have spoken to Unite [the workers' union] already to see what they know, and I will also be contacting Aviva to see if we can find out what is happening, and why this is happening now.
"I am not going to mention Brexit, but the current uncertainty the country is facing cannot be helping."
Andy Case, Unite Aviva officer said: "The Aviva workforce in the UK will be shocked by the news that their employer plans to shed 1,800 roles globally over the course of the coming three years. The scale of this role reduction will be met with disbelief across the company."
Mr Case continued: "Unite have arranged urgent discussions with Aviva management in order to ascertain the rationale for cutting an already extremely stretched workforce. Unite has made it clear to management that the union will strongly challenge any attempt to make compulsory redundancies. Instead, any staff reductions must be found through volunteers, natural attrition, reducing reliance on contractors and redeployment."
Unite workplace representatives will be at Aviva locations over the coming days and months to support the workforce.
One of Aviva's Norwich offices is within the constituency of Broadland MP Keith Simpson who said: "This is a worrying thing for those people in Norfolk who are employed in Norwich by Aviva.
"By talking about shedding 1,800 jobs over three years, out of a total workforce of 30,000, what I would expect as a local MP is for Aviva to be absolutely open about this. We want to have this spelled out so we can see exactly what the impact is going to be.
"Are they eventually going to be closing down their office in Norwich? There is no indication of that at the moment, but it is important that over the next two to three years they have got to take their workforce with them, and the local community as well."
He continued: "I think the big question now is getting promises from Aviva that they will keep people fully informed, and that we get good advance notice of the extent of the job losses in the Norwich head office, and what they see as the future for the Norwich office."
Mr Simpson said, as well as its status as a major employer, Aviva had a "strong emotional connection" to the city under its previous name of Norwich Union.
"My uncle Douglas worked there before the Second World War, so it has had that strong emotional link for a long time," he said.
"I think sadly, like a lot of great Norfolk firms they have been overtaken by events and been bought out and what we have seen recently is a whole series of big names in the UK being affected by people shopping online and the highly competitive nature of these businesses."