Unions threaten LRC action over Hibernian cuts

THE union representing workers at Hibernian will go to the Labour Relations Commission if the company fails to row back on its shock decision to axe nearly 600 jobs in the next four years.

There was criticism over why a firm which boasted more than €350 million in operating profits last year is moving so many jobs — more than 25% of its workforce — to India.

Fine Gael criticised Enterprise Minister Mary Coughlan for her “casual attitude to job losses” over her statement in which she noted the “phased and measured” nature of the job cuts.

Hibernian, which is part of giant European insurer Aviva, announced on Monday that 80 jobs would go from its three offices in Dublin, Galway and Cork early next year and an additional 500 would go by 2012.

Officials from Unite, the trade union representing the majority of staff working in Hibernian Group, held meetings with management up until early afternoon yesterday.

“We engaged in intensive discussions regarding the financial argument and the business case and we are seeking information on this,” said Unite national officer Jerry Shanahan.

He said they were looking for more detail about the actual positions that are earmarked for transfer to Bangalore, India and the cost of the jobs there, compared with here.

“We re-stressed our opposition to the transfer of what are sustainable jobs from Dublin, Cork and Galway,” said Mr Shanahan.

He did not accept the job losses were a fact and said they would bring the matter to the Labour Relations Commission and Labour Court if need be.

“We operate in an industrial relations environment. The management regularly present us with proposals, we try and come up with negotiations or agreement and if we can’t come up with agreement at local level, we take it through the process, at the LRC and Labour Court,” he said.

Mr Shanahan said the company had to take account of the “significant profits” it had made in Ireland, particularly in the last four years. He said the pressure for the move was coming from Aviva, which had a significant operation in India. “They’ve already sucked thousands of jobs from Britain to India and a significant number from Canada. We’re next on the list to be sent over there.”

He said there would be further talks with the company today and a general meeting with employees in Dublin this evening, followed by meetings with staff in Cork and Galway over the following days.

Mr Shanahan declined to criticise Ms Coughlan’s statement but said he had asked ICTU boss David Begg to set up a meeting with her so that he could “take her through events”.

Fine Gael labour spokesman Damien English criticised Ms Coughlan for a “very relaxed and casual attitude to job losses” and accused her and the Government of having its “head in the sand”.

Hibernian factfile

* Hibernian made an operating profit of €353m in 2007, compared to €189m in 2006 (a rise of 88%).

* Hibernian has 2,200 employees. The job losses will bring it to around 1,600.

* Aviva, the world’s fifth largest insurance group, has worldwide total sales of £49.2 billion (€62bn).


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