Published: 11:59, 26 September 2006
UNION chiefs have accused the financial group Scottish Widows of dismantling its Chatham operation by axing more than 200 jobs, including 70 that are going to India.
The group, part of Lloyds TSB and well known for its marketing image of a woman in black clothing, shocked workers by announcing that many of their back office jobs would be switching to Scotland, Mumbai and possibly Tonbridge.
Scottish Widows currently employs around 450 people at Chatham's Mountbatten House. A recent review of client services concluded that 175 working in Lloyds TSB "closed book" department will transfer to Lloyds TSB Group Operations in Chatham.
It says that altogether about 200 permanent staff will be "displaced," including 75 that do not involve dealing directly with customers. Those roles will switch to Mumbai. Other jobs dealing with the public will go to Edinburgh.
Managing director Christian Torkington said the moves would "improve efficiency."
But the Lloyds TSB Group Union (LTU) criticised the decision, claiming that Scottish Widows was "dismantling its operations in Chatham".
It claimed that the closed book jobs would go to Tonbridge (Lloyds TSB has offices in Medway Wharf Road) by the middle of next year, a point confirmed by Lloyds TSB.
He also denied LTU's claim that Scottish Widows had decided to transfer work from Chatham to Edinburgh "to avoid compulsory redundancies in Edinburgh and the political backlash that would cause north of the border."
Mark Brown, LTU assistant general secretary, said: "The decision to move Scottish Widows work from Chatham is completely unacceptable.
"Jobs in Scottish Widows are to be ditched merely because existing staff can be replaced by staff in India paid a fraction of their salary."
Scottish Widows said it would offer displaced staff alternative jobs where possible or a voluntary severance deal, but it could not rule out redundancies.
Mr Torkington said: "Staff in Chatham have made an important contribution to the Lloyds TSB Group, and Scottish Widows in particular, and we acknowledge that the proposed changes will have a significant impact on individuals.
"However, we want to continue to improve the already excellent service we offer to our customers and improve our efficiency at the same time. We are committed to working with staff over the next few months to clarify their options."
Scottish Widows has been in Mountbatten House since 2000 when Lloyds TSB acquired the financial services group. Black Horse Financial, a Lloyds TSB operation, has been in the building since 1986.