Aviva workers ‘left in limbo’

Shocked workers absorb the news at their office in Knocknacarra yesterday afternoon. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy.

Shocked workers absorb the news at their office in Knocknacarra yesterday afternoon. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy.

The 200 strong staff at Galway’s Aviva operations face an uncertain Christmas after the company announced 950 redundancies yesterday. Aviva employs more than 2,000 people at facilities in Galway, Dublin, and Cork, as well as 26 branches around the country, but no specific details relating to each location were disclosed. The redundancy programme will commence in March 2012 and could take up to two years.

The workforce at the Knocknacarra facility were invited to a business update yesterday morning and are said to be bitter and angry at the way in which they were told. With the lease up on the building in March staff have blasted the lack of communication and say they have been left in limbo. Aviva also has a branch in Eyre Square. The announcement comes as part of the company’s plans to merge Aviva Ireland with Aviva UK and form a new UK and Ireland region. Aviva has already relocated its European headquarters from Ireland to London.

The job losses comprise 180 roles from Aviva Europe and 770 from Aviva Ireland. Plans to establish additional centres of excellence in Ireland could mitigate the planned job losses by around 200. Aviva has also said it hopes to create more than 100 new jobs in its health division.

After Aviva Ireland’s CEO Dermot Browne emailed TD’s and Senators to make them fully aware of the company’s plans, Galway West TD Sean Kyne administered a stinging rebuke. Deputy Kyne said it was “unacceptable” to announce restructuring plans and job losses with no details being given until a future date, and added that workers deserve concrete information to allow them to plan for the future.

Igal Mayer, chief executive of Aviva Europe said: "We're fully committed to keeping customer-facing roles in Ireland and to minimising the impact on our employees. We appreciate that there will be a period of uncertainty for our people over the next few months as the proposals are explored further, and we'll make every effort to support them during the consultation period and beyond.”

The trade union Unite represents more than 1,300 of the company’s staff, and regional officer Brian Gallagher spoke after a meeting with Dublin staff representatives: “The axe has fallen harder and sharper than the worst fears of staff, they are stunned and scared by what they have been told.

“Unite will enter a period of consultation which management has undertaken to be ‘as long as is needed’, and we will be looking for justification of every job that is being cut or transferred. Jobs will be lost, but we will seek that as many as possible of these should be on fair voluntary redundancy terms, and that the overall number lost should be as few as possible.

“The process of this review has been unnecessarily hard on staff. Communication was poor and the key decisions were clearly taken on a multinational basis from London, without due consideration of the impact the uncertainty has had on the workforce and on the reputation of the business in Ireland.”

UNITE will meet with the staff at the Knocknacarra facility today while a meeting with the branch network takes place on Monday in Portlaoise.

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