British Gas lawyers re-apply for jobs

LEGAL staff at British Gas are having to re-apply for their jobs as the company goes through a massive restructuring process.

Lawyers currently working for the company's UK gas business are switching from the common services unit to one of five new businesses.

David Ashbourne has been appointed to head Transco, the Solihull-based transportation and storage unit. Jon Mortimer is taking charge of the legal team for Public Gas Supply, at Staines, and Christopher Cornfield will manage Contract Trading. The two other units, service and retail, are yet to select heads of legal.

The five new businesses are being formed out of the old regional divisions which have been disbanded as the company sheds 25,000 jobs over the next two years.

A common services unit, which includes the 180-strong legal team, has been set up while the restructuring programme takes place.

It is not known at this stage how many of the company's crop of about 70 lawyers will be placed in the new businesses which are expected to make their selections shortly.

Ashbourne was formerly a legal service manager responsible for Transco legal work in the south-east. Cornfield was a senior legal adviser specialising in contract trading matters, and Mortimer was a legal services manager for public gas supply in the eastern region.

Chris Roberts, researcher for the General Municipal Boilermakers' Union, says that white-collar workers across the company, not just in the legal section, are having to apply for jobs in the new businesses.

“It was recognised that if restructuring were to take place, this was the best way forward. But the changes were presented as something of a fait accompli,” he says.

John Bundock, legal services manager for gas business, says that recruitment is not being opened up to those outside the company.

v Lawyers at British Telecom (BT) face an uncertain future as the company embarks on its programme of job cuts. The Society of Telecom Executives (STE), the union which represents BT's professionals, last week presented shareholders with a booklet outlining its concerns about the company's strategy.

BT plans to cut between 50,000 to 100,000 jobs over the next three years, but it is not yet known how the axe will fall within the legal section comprising about 70 lawyers and a total of 200 legal executives and patent agents. Managers are due to look intensively at the legal department in the autumn.

The STE has called for a voluntary long-term approach to redundancy.