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L&G delays Kingswood office closure amid strike plans

L&G delays Kingswood office closure amid strike plans

Legal and General has postponed the closure of its flagship office by a year as staff move closer to strike action.

Staff at L&G’s flagship site in Kingswood, Surrey, will take a final vote on whether to take strike action in the new year in a bid to save 1,550 jobs.

The industrial action ballot, which opens tomorrow (11 December) and closes on 4 January, follows a consultative ballot in September, which saw 63 per cent of members vote in support of taking strike action.

L&G had initially planned to close its Kingswood site in 2017, citing potential cost savings.

However, according to the Unite union, the firm has now decided to delay the closure to 2018 and has offered some staff the option of relocation to sites in Hove, Cardiff, Wittam, London and Birmingham.

Unite members have argued there has been no offer of long-term job security for those staff affected, or any willingness to discuss alternatives that could keep the Kingswood site open.

Ian Methven, Unite regional officer, said: “Our members are not interested in a mere ‘stay of execution’, they want Legal & General to seriously look at ways that the profitable Kingswood site can remain open and the 1,550 jobs can be saved.”

He argued that losing Kingswood is simply the wrong decision for staff and customers. “As Legal & General is refusing to enter into serious negotiations, our members have been left with no option but to proceed with a final industrial ballot ahead of strike action.”

An L&G spokesman maintained that no decision has been taken on the potential closure of the Kingswood site. “Unite and Legal & General have both agreed formal consultation has concluded on potentially closing the site,” he said.

“As part of the agreement, there will be no compulsory redundancies if the site closes, and Unite and Legal & General have agreed all other key terms for employees.

“We are disappointed that the ballot is being undertaken now given no decision has been made to exit Kingswood and after the conclusion of positive consultation.”

The company has 1,700 employees in Kingswood, 1,300 in Hove, 1,300 in Cardiff and 600 in Birmingham and Witham, Essex.

In June, the insurer said it would close its headquarters in Kingswood, according to a spokesman who confirmed that consultations were taking place about the design of the organisation.

Then in August, an L&G spokesperson told FTAdviser that the lease for the Kingswood site was up for renewal and said “therefore it is sensible to see if the work cannot be done in our other offices, in a way that could benefit our customers”.

katherine.denham@ft.com

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