INSURANCE giant Hibernian was last night facing a bitter row as staff consider strike action over plans to axe almost 600 jobs as part of relocation to India.
Members of the powerful trade union, Unite, have agreed to ballot for strike action as they attempt to reverse the controversial restructuring plan unveiled by management Monday.
Unite leaders already said they will take a case to the Labour Court over the move, but quickly followed that by issuing the strike threat.
The union warned the 580 at-risk jobs, mostly back room and support roles, are starter level and ideal for young workers to get on the job ladder.
National officer Jerry Shanahan claimed: “If they go elsewhere then the spectre of youth emigration last seen in the 1980s will be back with us.”
Unite held a general meeting with staff at Hibernian’s head office in centre Dublin to hear concerns and plot a way forward.
Mr Shanahan claimed the restructuring proposal was flawed. “They say the relocation of these jobs outside of Ireland is inevitable. They are wrong,” he said.
Unite highlighted other successful relocation plans it had been involved in with some of Hibernian’s biggest competitors including to Wexford with Eagle Star, Kilkenny for VHI and the Allianz move to Donegal.
“All have produced savings for the company while maintaining fully sustainable jobs in Ireland and high quality of service for Irish customers,” said Mr Shanahan.
Hibernian’s move to Bangalore, if successful, is expected to make the company massive savings.
Management has insisted, however, that it intends to achieve the 580 job cuts through normal staff turnover, retraining and redeployment. But Unite have argued cost levels in Asia are rising and questioned the merits of off-shoring with salaries in India on the increase and huge staff turnover of up to 50%.
“Incredibly, even Hibernian’s parent company, Aviva, has started to repatriate jobs from abroad because of these very issues,” Mr Shanahan said. “Quality of service and an Irish heritage mean a lot to customers of Hibernian. Management are playing fast and loose with the loyalty of its customer base and we cannot stand idly by and allow sustainable jobs to drift away.”
Hibernian staff have passed a motion of no confidence in management and the ballot for strike is to begin immediately.
Most of the workers threatened by the restructuring scheme are based at the company’s offices on Hatch Street, Dublin, which only opened fully just over two years ago.
Hibernian employs 2,200 staff, but off-shoring will cut numbers to 1,600 over the next three years.
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