But slashes size of sales force

Virgin Media is scrapping a fifth of its direct sales force.

Virgin Media is scrapping a fifth of its direct sales force.

Up to 78 of the 425 door-to-door sales people employed by the cable company will be made redundant, although a spokeswoman says it is looking to redeploy some of the staff.

A consultation began earlier this month. The employees come from four former NTL regions: Leeds, Belfast, Teesside and Manchester.

The news comes ahead of a £20m advertising drive by the company to relaunch as Virgin Media, which is expected to break on February 14 (MW September 21, 2006), following the merger of NTL and Telewest last year and the acquisition of the Virgin Mobile service.

The cable company hopes the rebrand will allow it to escape its "NT-Hell" image of poor customer service, and last year pledged an extra £5m to improve customer care.

The spokeswoman says the move to reduce the direct sales team is not a change in strategy but a continuing part of the "ongoing integration" of the NTL and Telewest businesses. She says: "We realise this is unsettling for those employees and will work with them to identify redeployment opportunities wherever possible."

However, some affected staff point to Virgin’s perceived dislike of direct sales since London Electricity and its affiliate company Virgin Energy was fined £2m by energy watchdog Ofgem in October 2002 for mis-selling gas and electricity.

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