Sunderland property firm gentoo to axe hundreds of jobs

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SUNDERLAND property giant gentoo is to shed hundreds of jobs.

Workers were told in meetings this morning that a 90-day consultation period has started and the city’s biggest landlord is looking to lose 275 posts out of a total of about 1,800.

The firm says it is working with unions in the hope that the job losses will be found through volunteers rather than having to make people compulsorily redundant.

Gentoo has blamed three factors which it says have made job losses inevitable: the end of its 10-year programme of renewal schemes across the city; the impact of the recession on the construction industry nationally and the Coalition Government’s drastic reduction in the amount of money being made available to social housing builders.

Company bosses say other areas of the gentoo empire continue to do well, but there was no alternative to acting now.

Gentoo Group chief executive Peter Walls briefed the company’s construction workers at a mass meeting held at Rainton Meadows Arena early this morning.

Other members of gentoo staff were briefed later at the company’s Doxford HQ Emperor House.

He said: “Following the significant economic downturn affecting the construction sector, gentoo Construction is reviewing its workforce to reflect a reduction in turnover. We are experiencing an industry-wide problem in which the North East construction market has been paricularly badly hit.

“As a consequence we have opened consultations with our Trades Unions with a view to doing all we can to deal with this difficult situation in a way that will minimise the impact to our staff.

“Gentoo is a diverse group and the rest of our core business remains strong. The Group’s main operation, our landlord business, continues to perform well underpinned by strong revenues. Our strong financial viability is reflected in our continued ‘Green Light’ received from our regulator.”

City council leader Coun Paul Watson said the news was sad for the city.

He said: “For every person who loses their job, it is a tragedy.

“My sympathy goes out to those people who will be finding out today that they have to go home and tell their partners and their families that they are looking forward to struggling on the dole.

“Obviously, we know about the economic conditions but the government cuts are deep and harsh and seem to have no care for people like this - they seem to have no social conscience. There is a debt that needs to be cut but it could have been so much more empathetic.

“We will do everything we can to help people. As a council, we really need to roll our sleeves up, get out there and get more jobs in, and that is what we are doing.”

TUC regional secretary Kevin Rowan added: “In some respects, it is no surprise that companies like gentoo are facing these pressures, but clearly there is a dramatic impact from the Government’s spending cuts in the specific area around housing.

“We would urge gentoo to work with unions to minimise job losses and avoid any compulsory redundancies.

“Job losses on this scale are really something we can’t afford in the region. We have already got high levels of unemployment and this is really disappointing news.”