STAFF at a delivery depot have been invited to apply for redundancy.
The Home Delivery Network base in Commercial Road, Hendon, is all that remains of the Shop Direct call centre which closed a year ago.
Now drivers and management have been invited to volunteer for redundancy as part of a nationwide cost-cutting exercise.
One worker told the Echo that staff had been told the depot was to close, with its work transferred to DHL’s operation in Gateshead.
Wearside GMB organiser Mickey Hopper confirmed the union was in talks with the firm – which recently rebranded itself as Yodel – but denied the depot was threatened with closure.
“We have spoken to the company and are now in consultation,” he said.
“This is a national thing and they are asking for volunteers.
“Everybody is finding it a struggle at the moment and the business has not achieved what it expected to achieve, with a decline in internet sales and everything else, so now they are trying to reduce the wage bill – but there is no closure planned.”
The company issued a statement on the talks.
“As part of our continued drive to manage costs and ensure that Yodel is delivering the best in value and efficiency to our customers, we have entered in to talks with staff at our Sunderland depot to offer voluntary redundancy packages.
“We expect this to impact only a very limited number of staff.”
More than half a century of business heritage on Wearside came to an end when the former Littlewood’s call centre closed its doors in April last year, with the loss of 900 jobs.
The firm – which provided customer services for brands including Littlewoods, Woolworths.co.uk, Great Universal, Kays and Choice – blamed the rise of internet shopping for the decision to cut back its telephone service, closing centres in Sunderland, Burnley and Newtown in Wales.
Sunderland’s Littlewoods call centre was established in 1955 as a depot for the recently-created Brian Mills company.
Littlewoods founder John Moores had recognised the implications of rising wages after the war, and aimed to cash in by providing customers with credit, rather than simply allowing them to save up for goods.
A second credit mail-order firm, Burlington, was added at the centre in 1958, followed by Janet Frazer six years later.
The Hendon centre was such an important depot for the firm that it even boasted its own railway line.