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Pay frozen as more jobs go

Two of the UK’s largest consultants have suspended pay reviews for up to six months as firms step up efforts to tackle the economic downturn. Atkins – rated top consultant by fees rendered in the NCE Consultants File 2008 – announced its decision last week in response to the economic decline in Dubai.

The announcement came as consultant Jacobs – listed sixth by fees rendered in NCE’s Consultants File 2008 – was also deferring pay rises for several months. A Jacobs spokesman was unable to comment as NCE went to press but sources close to the company have confirmed the freeze.

Atkins has been affected by the downturn in Dubai as projects have been shelved or cancelled in response to falling oil prices, the collapse of its housing market and the ongoing credit crunch.

The consultant also intends to shed up to 210 staff – 170 in Dubai and a further 40 in the Phiippines. A spokesman said: “We are not immune to this… We are taking action from a position of strength to ensure the future success of the group.”

Atkins is still recruiting staff, and those on redundancy consultation will be offered the option of redeployment to other parts of the business where possible. City analyst Numis last week predicted that consultants would look at a greater variety of ways to keep costs down.

Further redundancy announcements have meant that most of the Consultants File top 10 are making job cuts or freezing salaries.

Third largest firm, Arup, confirmed that up to 400 UK staff face the axe in the first quarter of this year and are engaged in a 90-day period of consultation with all 9,274 staff. “It is essential that we match our resources to our anticipated workload, and it is with regret that we have decided to implement a programme of up to 400 staff redundancies across the UK in the first quarter of 2009,” it said in a statement.

Mouchel is also poised to make job cuts. A spokesman confirmed to NCE that it was making “a small number redundant in the Middle East and a handful in the UK”, but insisted this was due to restructuring following business acquisitions.

The gloomy mood has hit employees confidence, with just one in two respondents to NCE’s online poll confident of keeping their jobs in 2009.

How the Consultants File top 10 firms are reacting to the slump

  1. Atkins - implementing pay freeze until October and 210 job cuts in the Middle East

  2. Mott MacDonald - no changes announced

  3. Arup - 250 redundancies across UK operations

  4. WSP Group - 500 job cuts

  5. Mouchel “small number” of job cuts in UK and Middle East

  6. Jacobs - pay freeze

  7. RPS Group - no announcement

  8. Halcrow Group - no changes announced

  9. Scott Wilson - 60 job cuts

  10. Capita Symonds - no changes announced

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