Union pressure

Ovo ‘must explain’ £40m switch to founder’s firms

Stephen Fitzpatrick has been asked to open Ovo’s books

A trade union is insisting that OVO Energy explains why £40 million in loans and payments have been made to other companies owned by its founder and CEO Stephen Fitzpatrick before it makes up to 2,000 staff redundant.

Unite says its research shows nearly £20 million from OVO has been loaned to a number of companies owned by Mr Fitzpatrick, while £21 million has been paid out to Imagination Industries, OVO’s parent company for ‘brand royalty fees’.

Ovo announced earlier this month that it was cutting a quarter of its workforce which included the closure of four offices in Scotland.

Britain’s third-biggest energy supplier says it needs fewer staff following the transfer of millions of customers and 8,000 employees acquired in a £500m deal for SSE’s energy supply business, announced in September 2019.

However, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s preliminary research shows there are a lot of questions that need answering about OVO’s accounts. At the very least there should not be a penny more of taxpayers’ money spent on OVO until they provide answers.

“Unite has been proved right all along for demanding OVO open the books when the company is threatening to make up to 2,000 workers redundant.”

Pete Wishart MP, whose constituents will be impacted by the closure of OVO’s Perth office, said: “There is more than enough in the Unite research to raise serious concern about OVO’s accounts. OVO needs to be transparent about its books when one in four jobs face the axe. OVO simply cannot ignore this. I intend to raise questions in the House.”

In the last five years Unite estimates that the top directors of OVO took £4.6 million out of the company in salaries and benefits.

Unite national officer Simon Coop said: “To me it’s a simple enough question. There’s enough concern about the movements of money, as union research shows, so why don’t OVO come clean and open the books? What have they got to hide?”

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