Atkins confirms building design job cuts

Atkins has confirmed it is looking to make job cuts across its UK infrastructure division's building design practice. The news comes the week that the Canadian engineering and construction group SNC Lavalin completes its £2.1 billion acquisition of the UK consultant.

Consultation with Atkins' building design staff over the redundancies started late last week, which has prompted anger among some, according to reports from Construction Enquirer. Atkins employees have previously been assured that the SNCL takeover does not put jobs at risk.

A statement from the consultant denied any connection with the takeover, citing "increasing uncertainty and more challenging conditions" as the reasons behind the cuts. "This is not connected to the SNCL takeover and we will seek to redeploy as many people as possible to other roles," the Atkins statement says.

Commenting on the news of job cuts at Atkins, Nelson Ogunshakin, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy & Engineering, said: “ACE is always concerned when hearing of redundancies within our industry. Given the stated reasons from Atkins, these redundancies reaffirm the continued need from our industry to see more certainty from government. While the political situation remains in a state of flux, our industry relies upon continued decisions being made by government to secure a pipeline of projects. Without such security, the political and economic uncertainty of Brexit will have a more profound impact on companies working within the UK natural and built environment sector.”

Atkins' shareholders voted in favour of the SNCL acquisition at the beginning of last week. The merger makes SNCL a £7.1 billion global business of around 50,000 employees. It also presents the opportunity for around £71 million in cost synergies – £53.5 million of it from Atkins, according to a a statement from SNCL. This will come mainly from optimising back-office functions and shared services, streamlining IT systems and real estate consolidation, the company said.

Atkins' former group finance director Heath Drewett is now President of Atkins and a member of SNCL's executive committee. “Joining SNC-Lavalin will provide us with the ability to offer our clients and employees the enhanced scale, capabilities, expertise and other benefits that come with being part of a larger and stronger global company,” he said. “At the same time, we look forward to bringing our own unique projectmanagement, design, consulting and engineering capabilities to SNC-Lavalin’s clients. The result will be a more agile and responsive company that better meets client needs and creates cross-selling opportunities."