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Aviva axes 950 jobs

HALF of all Aviva jobs here were axed today as 950 workers lost their livelihoods.

In a cruel move, the insurance giant was subsumed into its UK operation, delivering the worst possible news to hundreds of workers.

And there was further bad news for staff who may only be offered a statutory redundancy package -- as opposed to the previous six weeks per year arrangement.

Aviva bosses flew into Ireland today to tell the 950 staff they no longer had a job, and they are still considering outsourcing hundreds more jobs.

The aim of the company is to have just 1,000 staff here by the time the job cuts are complete. Staff will begin leaving by March next year, giving them just six months to find new jobs with 437,000 already unemployed.

Management at the insurer summoned employees to a briefing this morning to deliver the grim news.

In the region of 770 jobs are to go at Aviva Ireland and a further 180 will be shed from the company's European headquarters, based in Dublin.

It is believed that terms granted for previous redundancies -- six weeks' pay per year of service -- will not apply for the latest job losses.

Workers at the company now face into a bleak Christmas, with implementation of the cuts due to begin in March next year.



STAFF

Aviva, which has offices in Dublin, Cork and Galway, currently employs 2,000 people in Ireland, and will retain its three offices -- albeit with less staff.

Speculation had grown that it would also announce the outsourcing of 300 positions in its life and pensions division.

However, it is understood no decision has yet been made on this proposal. Employees had been left in the dark for months, since it was first leaked that the company was looking to cut the workforce. They were finally given the bad news at a 10am meeting today, while middle management were informed two hours' previously.

"All this indicates that the Government's jobs initiative does not appear to have worked," Fianna Fail's enterprise spokesman Willie O'Dea told the Herald.

He warned that the "multiplier effect" will mean a lot more positions in the wider economy will also be lost.

"We lost 2,000 jobs at Dell in Limerick but now there are 6,000 not working as a result," Mr O'Dea said, point out that suppliers, shops and other businesses suffered badly as well.

Officials at the trade union UNITE were given a briefing by management on the plans for the first time last night.

"That was the first detailed information from the company. The process of consultation begins now. There's no good news in this at all," a union source told the Herald.

Aviva staff arrived at their Hatch Street HQ this morning waiting for the axe to fall.

Staff at all levels were bracing themselves for redundancy as they filed in the revolving doors for meetings at 8am and 10am.

The mood was sombre among the workers as a huge question mark hung over their futures. Few made any comments, but marched quickly into the offices to learn their fate. Braving the cold and bolstering themselves with take-away coffees, most of them declined to talk to the media.

Those who did speak confirmed they just did not know what to expect but they were preparing for the worst.

"It's terrible. A rough day," said one woman.

"There is a meeting at 8am, so we'll know more then," a male colleague said.

"We just don't know, of course we're anxious," a woman commented as she went through the doors. "That's life, and you have to deal with it," said a man just before 8am.

FOYER

Shortly after 8am, a crew of workers arrived at Aviva to erect a stage in the main foyer of the offices. A spokesperson for the company said that the screens were placed over the front doors and windows for privacy.

The job cuts come on foot of a review of Aviva's business in Ireland by the group's chief executive Andrew Moss and the head of its European operations Igal Mayer codenamed Operation Accelerate.

In comments recently, Mr Moss said there is a "culture of entitlement" in Ireland that had to change. He said Aviva was paying its Irish employees 20pc more than those in the UK. "That's not sustainable," he said.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton met with company executives in recent weeks and asked IDA Ireland and the other agencies to work with Aviva to offset the scale of the cuts.