Aviva under pressure to come clean on fears of up to 700 job losses
Published 21/09/2011 | 05:00
Insurance giant Aviva is under increasing pressure to make an announcement amid fears a business review is earmarking up to redundancies at its Irish operations.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny suggested company bosses should make their intentions clear after management refused to deny reports of massive cuts.
"I really am concerned here about the uncertainty that has been caused by the announcements that have been commented on in the media generally," the Taoiseach said.
"This is causing great anxiety and concern for those who work in Aviva."
Mr Kenny said the Department of Jobs and Innovation and the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) had been in direct contact with Aviva.
"But obviously the company themselves haven't made their decision clear yet arising from the review of restructuring that they are currently conducting."
The Unite trade union, which represents 1,300 of the 2,000 strong workforce in Dublin, Cork and Galway, said they hoped to hear a definitive announcement from the company in the next 48 hours.
Brian Gallagher, Unite regional officer, said staff were punch drunk with rumours about their jobs.
"Morale is on the floor. Our members are trying their best to lift the business in difficult circumstances and this lack of communication from management is very poor," Mr Gallagher said after meeting Aviva's human resources chief.
"We asked for a denial of the rumour that began spreading last night but that has not been forthcoming."
Aviva management confirmed it was carrying out a business review and added "no decisions have been taken at this stage".
The review is understood to be linked to the European HQ move to London and also the fall in business in Ireland.
Staff have privately raised concerns for several months of massive redundancies amid repeated speculation the business was to be dramatically reduced.
Jobs minister Richard Bruton said he believed the review was due to a fall in domestic demand.
"I think it reflects the difficulties in the Irish economy," the minister said.
"But the response of Government remains that we have to get our cost base right, we have to fix access to finance so companies can rebuild and we need to build on the innovation opportunities that companies face."
Mr Bruton, who is in the US and expected to meet management of MBNA amid separate fears for the future of 700 jobs at the Carrick-on-Shannon centre, told RTE some business decisions were beyond government control.
"There are decisions by companies involved in the global world and we can't influence those, but what Ireland can do is seek to build a strong indigenous engine of growth. I think that was forgotten in the boom years," he said.
According to a company spokesman, line managers in the Dublin head office and the Cork and Galway call centres addressed small teams of staff and sought "feedback" over fears for jobs after reports emerged of huge redundancies.
In a statement, Aviva said it was considering its options.
The statement read: "Aviva is committed to Ireland, where we have had a business for over 100 years. Given the difficult economic environment in which we are all operating in Ireland, we are considering various options to ensure we have a sustainable and competitive business, providing excellent service and value for our Irish customers.
"Aviva reaffirmed our commitment to fully inform and engage with employees and their representatives, as is our established practice in Aviva."
The jobs fears come two weeks after telecoms giant TalkTalk announced it was shutting its Waterford operation with the loss of 575 workers.
Fianna Fail's jobs spokesman Willie O'Dea said Aviva management must be clear on its intentions.
"Any cuts at Aviva, particularly if they're on the scale that has been suggested, would signal a very serious problem within the insurance sector generally and cuts would not be likely to be confined to Aviva," Mr O'Dea said.
"I know the minister and his department engages with companies who decide that job cuts are necessary, however the Government may have more success in heading off large losses by engaging vulnerable sectors as a whole."
AA Ireland insisted the jobs threat was not reflective of the state of the insurance industry in Ireland.
Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald accused Mr Kenny of passing the buck to a Government agency.
"You talk big, you act small. I don't accept your position that you have had no contact with Aviva. You pass the buck to the IDA," she said.
"Hundreds of jobs are now under threat. What will you do about it?"