A BOMBSHELL decision by mobile phone giant EE to axe its Greenock call centre was yesterday met with 'shock and anger' by the company's 450-strong Inverclyde workforce. 

A union boss told the Telegraph that the announcement to close the facility - which has been in place for a quarter-of-a-century - came 'completely out of the blue'.

The hammer blow is the latest crisis to hit the local economy in less than 12 months following the closure of Amazon in Gourock and the collapse of plastics firm Berry BPI and has fuelled fears of further depopulation in Inverclyde.

Greenock man Craig Anderson, Scottish regional secretary with the Communication Workers Union (CWU), said he and colleagues are now locked in talks to find ways of salvaging the situation.

But it appears almost certain that the call centre will close later this year with jobs draining away to be relocated in Glasgow.

Mr Anderson said: "The staff were shocked by the news and they were angry as well.

"It is not a situation where there will be redundancies, as we understand it, and staff will be able to go to another centre, but that will cause issues for many of them.

"We will need to see as a union what we can do about this.

"We will be looking at all the ways we can try to mitigate the damage and loss that this is going to cause.

"I would say the majority of people working there are local to Inverclyde."

Mr Anderson added: "I have spent a lot of time there over the years and many of the people I am friendly with and speak to have been there since the very start, when it first opened as One2One.

"EE is the third or fourth biggest employer in Inverclyde. It is a devastating blow for the Inverclyde area and the wider community.  

"This will a significant impact on the local economy, for other businesses and the town centre."

Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe said the local authority will appeal directly to EE over the decision.Mr McCabe told the Telegraph: “While we are of course relieved that there will be no redundancies ensuring continued employment for the Greenock-based workforce, the potential loss of the contact centre is very concerning.

“EE is one of Inverclyde’s largest employers and the Greenock office has been a key site for the company, in one guise or another, for almost 25 years.

“The closure of such a large premises that supports hundreds of staff after such a long period of time would undoubtedly put greater pressure on the local economy and have a knock-on effect for local businesses, would result in loss of income for the area, and potentially lead to further depopulation.
“We will appeal to EE directly to reconsider their proposal to close the Greenock site and raise our concerns and explore what alternatives there are to try and maintain a presence in Inverclyde as a valued and long-standing employer.

“Our powers are of course limited so greater government support will be required this will be escalated to Inverclyde Socio-Economic Taskforce  to see if governments and partners can assist.”

Stuart McMillan MSP raised the issue at First Minister's Questions almost immediately after the announcement and welcomed the news that the 455 staff will be relocated and a travel scheme put in place.

But Mr McMillan added: “The news that the EE site in Greenock is set for closure is a huge disappointment, and my thoughts are with all those who’re now considering what their future with the company looks like.

"This will still deliver a hammer blow to the local economy if the closure goes ahead.

"I contacted the Scottish Government to inform them of the situation and ask if they stand ready to support Inverclyde given the impact this will have upon the economy."

Councillor McCabe said the future of EE would be on the agenda for the next meeting of the Inverclyde Task Force later this month.

First Minister Humza Yousaf promised to work with the council to provide support for those affected.

Mr Yousaf said in Parliament: "First and foremost my thoughts are with all the 450 workers at the EE site in Greenock.

"I am very sorry to hear of that news. What I can give is an assurance the Scottish Government will engage with the local authority but also where we can with the company directly.

"Of course we will do what we can through our PACE (partnership action for continuing employment) to help workers who have been affected, should they need it to look for further employment."

Following the announcement the BT Group, of which EE is part of, said that they were in consultations.

A BT Group spokesperson confirmed yesterday that they are consulting on plans to move the 442 permanent workers and 13 agency staff to Glasgow.