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Aviva HR chief on luxury junket as 1,000 face axe

Last month it emerged that up to 500 people would go, but under the Operation Accelerate document, between 800 and 1,000 people will lose their jobs -- that's half of the entire Irish staff.

Today HR chief Mr McCaughey wasn't available to comment on the matter when we called his suite in Spain.

It is understood that the conference is winding up today after three days in which guests can enjoy championship golf, luxury spa treatments and some of the finest dining in all of Catalonia.

The Dolce Sitges Golf Resort in Barcelona boasts stunning views of the Mediterranean and is one of the top hotels in Barcelona.

News of the conference has raised eyebrows among union officials who are preparing to meet Mr McCaughey this evening upon his return from Spain.

"I find it absolutely outrageous that while the jobs and livelihoods of 1,000 people are about to be wiped out, the man in charge of human resources is at a junket in Spain," said one source.

"This typifies just how badly and disrespectfully that Aviva has handled the whole issue of Irish jobs.

"Not once have they come out and clarified the situation, making life completely intolerable for half of its entire staff."

Aviva has more than one million customers in Ireland, and industry experts believe that the manner in which Aviva has handled the job cuts has been damaging to the brand.

Uncertainty over the future of hundreds of Irish jobs in Aviva has been festering since February, but rumours hit an all-time high last month when the full scale of the job cuts hit the headlines.

The Government has come under growing criticism for its handling of the situation with critics accusing Taoiseach Enda Kenny of doing nothing to reconcile the situation.

He has been accused of failing to meet his obligations by having no contact with the company, leaving the matter instead to the IDA.

Last night RTE's Prime Time, fronted by Miriam O'Callaghan (right), revealed details of a company plan, named Operation Accelerate.

Under the restructuring programme between 800 and 1,000 jobs will be cut from Aviva staff from its Insurance and Life and Pensions divisions.

The very real possibility that the insurer will cut jobs here follows the move of Aviva's head office from Dublin to London, where the ultimate decision will now be made.

A spokesman for the trade union Unite, Rob Hartnett, told the Herald he had not been aware of the event in Spain and would have to know more about it before commenting.

The union met with HR officials from Aviva in Dublin at 3pm today.

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Hartnett told the Herald they would be looking for an "up-to-date briefing" on the company's plans for its Irish workforce.

The officials were to raise questions about the restructuring plans and ask about "any developments in the global plans in the last few days".

Mr Hartnett said the number of jobs losses is "only speculation at the moment".

"They said to us that they would keep us better informed as to the developments in this restructuring coming out of London," he added.

The meeting today was "another step in that process".

Mr Hartnett pointed out there were reports last night of a "softening in the severity of the numbers" of jobs losses.

Grainne Mackin, a spokeswoman with Aviva, told the Herald the Irish HR director was attending a pre-planned annual meeting and was travelling back to Dublin this afternoon.

hnews@ herald.ie