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Up to 200 jobs to go at Black & Veatch as water workload sinks

US engineering giant Black & Veatch is to make up to 200 people redundant in the UK in response to falling workloads, NCE can reveal.

In a letter sent to employees and seen by NCE, the firm said it was seeking to make up to 200 redundancies in a “worst case scenario” in response to a failure to win enough work to bolster its forward orders.

The letter explains that it had failed to secure sufficient work at this point in the water spending cycles for England, Wales and Scotland. It adds that this has triggered a review of its resource requirements through to the end of 2013.

“The outcome of the review is that, potentially, we are considering making in the region of 200 employees redundant,” the letter says.

NCE understands that construction and design staff are affected at all levels and that the firm expects that half of the cuts will be made in its construction business.

Black & Veatch employed 1,202 technical staff in the UK as of 1 January, according to figures supplied to NCE’s 2013 Consultants File. This figure includes contract as well as permanent staff.

It is thought up to 600 permanent staff have been told their jobs are at risk out of the 900 permanent staff it is understood to employ in the UK.

Black & Veatch’s public change in fortunes in water is abrupt. In its submission to the Consultants File it identified the water sector as one of its two fastest growing UK sectors for the two years to December 2014.

And the firm was ranked 19th in NCE’s Top 20 recruiters feature, published alongside the File.

This recognised that the firm employed 25 more civil and structural engineers than at the same time last year.

“The water market has remained buoyant in challenging economic conditions, and Black & Veatch has been able to continue recruiting staff to support an increased workload,” it told NCE in March.

But it emerged last week that the firm had missed out on a place on Thames Water’s £3bn capital works programme for the next asset management plan (AMP) period for 2015-2020.

The MBVA consortium of Murphy, Black & Veatch and Aecom failed to win one of the highly lucrative and sought after design and build partnerships, losing out to the Costain/Veolia/Atkins and Skanska/MWH/Balfour Beatty joint ventures.

Missing out is a major blow as Thames Water is keen to see the partnerships extend beyond the AMP6 cycle into the next five year cycle stretching between 2020 and 2025.

Black & Veatch confirmed that redundancies were likely.

“All businesses are subject to economic cycles; no industry, especially in the current economic climate, can offer complete job security,” it said in a statement.

“A feature of the way the water industry is structured currently is peaks and troughs in work available.

“Like the rest of the water sector, Black & Veatch is not immune from this; and we are always reviewing our workforce to ensure alignment with the market’s needs.

“We are at a point in the cycle at which, regrettably, redundancies are likely; we anticipate no more than 200.”

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