Aviva Plc, the UK's biggest insurer, will eliminate about 1,100 jobs at its Norwich Union life insurance unit after a cost review that was announced in 2007. The cuts equal 3.9 per cent of Aviva's UK workforce and include 300 vacant positions.
A further 590 contract spots will be closed in the next few months, the London-based company said in a statement. Job losses will mostly be in the English cities of Norwich and York, said spokeswomen Sue Winston.
''Our strategy over the last three years has seen us transform and simplify our business,'' chief executive officer Mark Hodges said in the statement. ''This means that a reduction in the number of roles in the business is inevitable.''
Aviva is reducing products and cutting jobs in the UK to improve profit growth at its general insurance unit as the economy slows. The company has shifted jobs to India over the past five years to take advantage of a lower-cost labour force.
Aviva, which sells insurance and investments through joint ventures with banks in continental Europe and Asia, announced plans in June to shed as many as 1,800 jobs over two years. Last month, the insurer said it had reduced costs by 340 million pounds since October 2007 and was on target to save 500 million pounds by 2010.
The majority of the jobs being lost are at the offices in York, Norwich, Sheffield and Eastleigh. The firm said it was "fully committed" to doing all it could to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies.
Aviva's UK Norwich Union brand will be renamed Aviva from June this year.
The Unite trade union said it's unacceptable for Aviva to slash jobs after deciding to maintain its shareholder dividend at 2007 levels. On 5 March, the insurer posted a record loss after it wrote down the value of corporate bond holdings.
''Unite is angry that Aviva is repeating what appears to be an annual exercise of cutting thousands of staff,'' Derek Simpson, the union's joint general secretary, said in an e-mailed statement. ''The Aviva workforce is continuing to live under constant uncertainty about their future.''
The company said the impact on staff would be minimised by natural turnover and redeployment, and the number of permanent employees who would leave the company was estimated to be about 800.
The company's stock has fallen 38 per cent this year, making it the worst performer in the eight-member index, as investors speculated that UK insurers would be forced to raise capital after investment returns fell amid the global recession. Last year, Aviva suffered an 885 million pound loss after having made a profit of 1.5 billion pounds in 2007.
At the end of 2008, Aviva employed about 28,400 people in the UK and had a global workforce of nearly 55,000. More than 60 per cent of the group's business is now generated outside the UK.