UP to 200 jobs are set to be axed at Southern Water in Sussex.

Staff were told today that customer service jobs at the company's headquarters in Durrington and some staff at its offices in Falmer would be outsourced to Capita.

Some posts will move to Rotherham in Yorkshire and others will move to Bangalore in India.

Capita is set to make the redundancies on August 1 after taking over the contract.

Caroline Fife from Unison said: "Staff are very upset they won't have a job in six weeks' time."

She added: "The company is under considerable financial pressure from Ofwat.

"Very unfortunately for a lot of staff as a consequence work will be transferred to Capita.

"All we can do is support staff as much as possible over the next few weeks."

One member of staff who has worked there for nine years said the company had been "heartless".

Another who had been with the company for a year said he was "gutted".

He said: "They are losing a lot of experience with people who have been there for 15 or 20 years."

Some workers are said to have walked out after the announcement was made.

"A lot of people are obviously very upset about it," said one member of staff.

"It really did come as a bit of a bombshell."

Another told The Argus: "At 2pm we were told customer service staff needed to assemble in a big room.

"We spoke to a director who we had never seen before, he had never introduced himself.

"A lot of us were told that we had done really well but due to the market conditions we were all going to be made redundant and our jobs would be replaced by Capita in Rotherham.

"Some of us could be transferred up there but we area all based around Sussex so that's not realistic.

"One man joked that he would move to his mum's house in Bradford.

"It was really sad to see. There was a lot of crying.

"A young couple who had recently got engaged and were going to buy a house said they weren't sure if they were going to be able to make the payments any more.

"I survived the redundancies two years ago but everyone is going now.

"Even the managers.

"Ofwat regulates water companies and allows companies more control based on how well they do with targets.

"We have always been ranked low with customer service so it could be something to do with that.

I've seen the company accounts and we're not a poor company by any standards.

"What's sad is that these are at least 200 people who are based all around Sussex and now all of these people are going to need a job.

"That's a massive part of the community.

"I'm not unhirable, I'll try my best to get another job, but it's sad that this is happening.

"I've been here for nine years, I know someone who has been here for 20, and it feels so heartless and cold that we have been treated like this today.

"I like Southern Water and I love customer service, and a lot of the time before I didn't have a bad word to say about it.  "I survived the wave of redundancies two years ago but so many of my friends didn't, I don't really have anyone here that I've known for that long."

The company said on its website: "Southern Water is two years into a challenging business transformation programme.

"We are making good progress and have delivered our best ever customer service score in the water industry league table.

"We’ve created more than 100 jobs in our IT department by bringing the service in house.

"These positive improvements have been recognised by our regulators.

"However, there is more to do and the changes we are making will ensure our customer service remains fit for the future and meets our customers’ expectations, while keeping bills affordable and meeting the efficiency challenge set out by our regulator, Ofwat."

A spokeswoman for Capita said: "The significant expansion of Capita’s contract is testament to the confidence Southern Water has in our ability to deliver an outstanding customer service.

"By consolidating Southern Water’s complaints, collections, social media contact and some back-office services under one roof, we believe we will be able to further enhance customer experience.”

  • We previously stated that "at least" 200 redundancies were set to be made. Southern Water insists that a maximum of 200 people will be affected.