Anger as insurance jobs go 'off-shore'

NORWICH Union insurance group Aviva is to axe 4,000 jobs, including more than 1,000 in East Anglia, in a move to reduce costs and transfer more work to India.

NORWICH Union insurance group Aviva is to axe 4,000 jobs, including more than 1,000 in East Anglia, in a move to reduce costs and transfer more work to India.

The cuts - described yesterday by one union leader as “brutal” - also involve the closure of the 107 high street offices of the group's BSM driving school business.

Aviva said the Norwich Union jobs would go by the end of 2007, with compulsory redundancies likely to account for half of the total.

Norwich will be the worst hit location, with a total of 850 jobs expected to go in the city, with a further 200 posts being cut in Cambridge.

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Other UK centres affected include York (450 jobs), Glasgow and Sheffield (250 each), Perth, Newcastle and Eastleigh (200 each), Bristol and Stevenage (150 each), Worthing and Belfast (100 each) and Birmingham (50).

Aviva said the move followed a review of the Norwich Union life insurance and general insurance businesses in the UK and would save £250 million a year from 2008.

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Norwich Union chief executive Patrick Snowball said the job losses were “regrettable” but the company was now working in a “self-service world” and was “always looking for ways of working smarter with fewer people”.

He said: “We have to ensure that Norwich Union remains a highly efficient and effective company in what is an increasingly competitive and dynamic environment.

“Customers' buying habits are changing rapidly as technology becomes more accessible. Already half our new direct motor insurance policies are purchased over the internet.”

Aviva said it would seek to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies through natural staff turnover and voluntary measures.

However, union leaders complained there had been no consultation ahead of yesterday's announcement, which some employees learned of first from media news bulletins.

There was also anger that move involved the further “offshoring” of work to India, although Aviva - which apologised to staff for the media leak - insisted that was in line with plans already announced.

Dave Fleming, national officer of Amicus, said: “This is absolutely brutal. Compulsory job cuts and offshoring on this scale will not be accepted by us or our members.

“This is a betrayal of their long-serving workforce who have woken up to the news on the media this morning that their jobs are going, rather than hearing 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 than their UK workforce.”

The BSM offices will also shut by December next year, with all lessons then being booked by phone or on the internet. Aviva said there would be a net loss of 200 jobs once a new centralised sales and service operation was in place.

Last month, Aviva announced record half-year results for the six months to June 30, including an operating profit of £866million from general insurance and health operations, up 23% from £694million during the first half of last year,

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