GENTOO has today been urged to do all it can to avoid sacking staff.
The Sunderland-based social housing provider yesterday revealed it was axing 275 jobs, out of its workforce of 1,800.
A compulsory 90-day consultation has begun with staff, and Wearside MPs have called on the gentoo management to ensure a minimum are compulsory redundancies.
Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott said: “This is very sad news indeed.
“Understandably, these cuts are from an economic climate which is the result of the Tories’ policy of cutting too fast and too soon, and I sincerely hope that redundancies are kept to a minimum.”
Bridget Phillipson, who represents Houghton and Sunderland South, said: “This will be a very difficult time for gentoo staff and their families.
“I know the trade unions will be working closely with the company to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies, and this is to be welcomed.”
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson said: “It is deeply regrettable that gentoo needs to shed more than one in seven jobs, but at the same time I accept that this won’t have been an easy decision, and that the conditions in the construction sector are extremely challenging at the moment.”
“However, it’s exceptionally difficult for people to find work at the moment, so I will be making sure that gentoo fulfil their commitment that they will do all they can to minimise compulsory redundancies and provide practical support to anyone they do have to let go.”
Sunderland Conservative Group leader, Councillor Tony Morrissey, said: “It is regrettable that anyone has to lose their jobs, but in the current economic climate a lot of organisations are having to trim back and make efficiencies.
“Despite the recent severe weather, there seems to be optimism we will see an upturn in the construction industry in the coming months, so hopefully people laid off from the construction arm of gentoo will be able to find alternative employment.”
He added: “It is not the case that the Government is starving social housing providers of funding.
“It has stated its intention to increase social housing money in England over the next four years.”
Gentoo bosses said they hope the job losses will be found through volunteers, rather than having to make people compulsorily redundant.
They have laid the blame having to make the cuts on the recession in the construction industry nationally, and the Government’s cuts in funding for social housing builders, and the end of its 10-year programme of renewal schemes across Wearside.
However, former city councillor Mike Tansey, of national campaign group Defend Council Housing, said some of the job losses could be put down to gentoo’s move away from its original core business of looking after social housing in Sunderland, which had become a “sideshow.”
He added: “These speculative ventures to reach out across the UK, certainly in the current economic climate, have put the company and its people at risk, and this is the result.”
Gentoo has said its core business remains strong, and its main operation as a landlord “continues to perform well, underpinned by strong revenues.”