Fianna Fáil Frontbench Spokesperson Billy Kelleher has raised the concerns surrounding up to 1,000 jobs at insurance giant Aviva.

“The announcement by Aviva Health in May to move its European headquarters from Dublin back to London rang alarm bells that further restructuring could take place affecting its operations in Ireland.  Aviva employs more than 2,000 people in Ireland.  The headquarters could have job losses of up to 500 and now there are disturbing reports of possible further job losses,” deputy Kelleher said during a Dáil debate with Minister of State Seán Sherlock this afternoon.

Deputy Kelleher submitted the issue for discussion following an RTÉ Prime Time programme which details reports of an ‘Accelerate’ plan regarding Aviva’s restructuring.  The programme detailed reports of up to 1,000 potential job losses arising from a 30% drop in its Life and Pensions business and a 15-20% drop in its general insurance business.

Deputy Kelleher said: “We must express concern in the context of existing Aviva employees.  We need to consider the broader issue of the sectoral plans that would be required by Government and the lead agency, IDA Ireland, in discussions with companies whose headquarters are located in Ireland.  Primarily we are trying to promote Ireland as a place for foreign direct investment and trying to promote the International Financial Services Centre.  It plays a very positive role in the economy and employs large numbers of people.  However, when an internationally recognised company with a strong brand such as Aviva moves its headquarters out of the country, it could damage our reputation.  We have invested much in trying to promote Ireland as a place for foreign direct investment and this issue could raise concern for other companies considering locating in Ireland.”

“I do not expect the Minister of State to be able to wave a magic wand, but the Government and IDA Ireland need to have stronger engagement with Aviva on its restructuring plans as opposed, as the Taoiseach said, to waiting for this review to take place and then for the company to announce that following its review it is restructuring at which point it is too late for us to embark on any meaningful engagement with the company.”

In part of his reply Minister Sherlock said: “As the CEO of Aviva has confirmed that the company is in ongoing contact with employee representatives, it would be premature to speculate about the outcome.  To be fair, it is pertinent that the Government allow the unions to engage with Aviva to see where that process might lead.  The company has given a commitment to communicate the results of the review to my Department and IDA Ireland when completed.  We anticipate that the review will be completed by the end of October.  In the interim, IDA Ireland is in contact with the company at both corporate and local level, with the intention of mitigating the impact of potential negative outcomes following the review.”

Speaking following the debate Deputy Kelleher said: “I believe the Government must be more proactive here.  A decision that is taken at the end of October with talk of a possible six week consultation period with workers will leave workers in complete limbo almost up to Christmas.  Again I feel a sectoral approach is necessary.  Aviva cannot be the only insurance company in difficult financial circumstances because of the recession.”