HUNDREDS of workers are set to lose their jobs at gas and electricity supplier Ovo Energy’s Perth office as it announced plans to axe a quarter of its UK workforce.

Staff have been told that 1,700 employees across the UK will lose their jobs through voluntary redundancy.

It is understood that about 700 people work in the Perth office, which will go as the firm launches a voluntary redundancy programme for its 6,200 workers.

The move is part of plans to consolidate operations with just three offices in London, Bristol, and Glasgow, and comes just two years after OVO Energy bought over the retail arm of SSE. At the time the company said “nothing will change” for staff employed in the Perth office.

However, it backtracked on this only four months later and hundreds were laid off in May 2020. OVO Energy officially took over SSE Energy Services, which served around five million customers, on January 15, 2020.

Alistair Phillips-Davies, CEO of SSE plc, said at the time that he “firmly believed” the £500 million deal was the best outcome for “the business, its customers and its employees”.

OVO Energy also gave reassurances there would be no redundancies as a result of the takeover.

Two bases in Edinburgh and one in Cumbernauld will also close as it reduces its UK offices from 10 to three.

In a letter, Adrian Letts, the boss of OVO’s retail business, told staff: “While it is regrettable to be reducing roles across the business, and we understand this will be an uncertain time for many, we will fully support all our employees as this process develops over the coming months.

“We are engaging with our recognised trade unions to ensure all receive the right information and support.”

HeraldScotland: John Swinney in Holyrood

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who is also the local MSP, said he was seeking urgent talks with OVO to understand their decision.

He added: “I am currently reaching out to OVO management in order to better understand the reasons behind this decision, and will be seeking to meet with them to discuss the potential implications for local OVO workers.

“I would ask any constituents who may be affected by today’s announcement and feel that I can offer assistance to contact my office directly.”

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart said he is disappointed as OVO had suggested when it took over the Perth site in January 2020 it would be investing and developing the office.

He said: “This is bad news after all the commitments that were given to the workforce when they took over from SSE.”

“I am very concerned with this announcement from OVO and job losses on this scale will have a massive impact on the labour market in Perth.

“I know that energy firms are operating in a very challenging commercial environment just now, but we cannot forget the number of commitments that OVO made to Perth and to the former SSE workforce when they took over at Inveralmond.

“I am therefore very disappointed that instead of developing the Perth plant as they suggested they would it is to be closed down instead. I am seeking a meeting with OVO and I hope to get clear answers as to what exactly has gone wrong.”

Elaine Dougall, of the Unite union, told BBC Radio Scotland’s Drivetime programme it had not been told how many jobs were at risk in Scotland.

She said the union was in discussions with OVO Energy but employees were “in a state of shock”.

“The way in which it was delivered via social media and the news was not the best way to learn that your job was potentially at threat.”

The job cuts are understood to be linked to the company’s acquisition of SSE three years ago and the integration of the firm into OVO.

OVO said it would also create a new “Ovo Academy” in Glasgow which would create “new opportunities in the city for those who want to be at the forefront of the UK’s green revolution”.

About 1,000 call-centre staff will be trained to become zero-carbon living advisers, with specialist knowledge of green home products and technologies from tariffs, to making homes more energy efficient.

It said it would also increase its basic wage to £12 an hour, a 15 per cent rise on its previous pay rate.

In 2020, the company announced plans to close its operations in Glasgow’s Waterloo Street and Selkirk.

The company had to apologise earlier this week after an email sent to customers advised them to keep their heating bills low by “having a cuddle with your pets” or eating bowls of porridge.

OVO has yet to respond officially to the plans.