SCOTTISHPOWER has delivered a Christmas blow to staff with news of a fresh round of job cuts.

One of the biggest firms in the UK market, the Spanish-owned firm reported a £23 million surge in retail profits in the first six months of the year. But in October that growth turned into loss, with earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (Ebitda) falling by almost 40%.

Last week it told staff it's preparing to make around 160 redundancies in its retail arm. These will be off-set by the recruitment of around 60 new staff in digital positions, The National understands.

Managers say the changes will make the company "fit for the future".

But there's upset amongst staff and Ian Perth, negotiations officer for the Prospect union, said those affected face a tough Christmas. He told The National: "The timing of this announcement is very disappointing as we come to the end of another extremely challenging year.

"Prospect welcomes the employer’s commitment to seek voluntary redundancies in the first instance. We welcome the opening of a voluntary register, however compulsory redundancy may be a real possibility.

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"We recognise that employers like Scottish Power Energy Retail are suffering from a lack of effective market regulation and that the company is making unsustainable year-on-year losses. However, that will be little comfort to anyone facing Christmas with the real risk of redundancy hanging over their head.

"It is in everyone’s interest that Scottish Power Retail becomes successful and sustainable. Prospect will work tirelessly with our trade unions colleagues to minimise job losses, and ensure any necessary redundancies are voluntary where possible."

In July, ScottishPower's retail customer base stood at around 4.6m. With its headquarters in Glasgow, employs around 6000 people across its divisions.

It's been owned by Spanish giant Iberdrola since 2007 and recorded profits of £135m in the first six months of this year, which it said reflected the impact of colder weather compared with the same period in the previous 12 months. However in October it published details of a fall in earnings to £83m in the previous quarter. 

The redundancies news was broken to the workforce last week, when many were making plans for the festive period.

Andrew Ward, chief executive officer of ScottishPower’s UK retail division, said: "As we continue to decarbonise and electrify how we live, work and travel, we need to ensure our retail business delivers for our customers and remains fit for purpose and competitive in the current challenging retail market conditions.

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"As a result, we’re reviewing our organisational structure to ensure we have the right posts and people in place to best meet business needs as we continue to grow our renewables portfolio, support the move away from fossil fuels to heat pumps and electric vehicles, and grow our green hydrogen division.

"We expect this to result in an overall reduction of around 100 posts in our retail business – through voluntary redundancy – with the deletion of posts that are no longer required and the creation of new roles that will ensure we stay fit for the future.

"We appreciate this will be a worrying time for affected employees. Consultation is currently underway and we will support them through the process."