Wednesday, 1 July 2015
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
103. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide an outline of the discussions he has had with an insurance company (details supplied) in respect of that company's proposal to reduce its workforce by 270 persons; if he has outlined to the company the absolute need to retain the maximum level of employment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26562/15]
104. To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has outlined to an insurance company (details supplied) the need for the company to honour the commitments made at the time of purchase of Quinn Insurance to retain employment levels of almost 1,500; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26563/15]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 103 to 105, inclusive, together.
I share the Deputies’ concern in relation to the recent developments at Liberty Insurance, where job losses were announced last week. The most significant area of concern in this jurisdiction is the proposed reduction of 115 jobs in Cavan town, which will be a significant blow to those employees and their families in this rural area.
This decision was made after a strategic internal review by the company. The Deputies will appreciate that we cannot change a company decision - companies make strategic decisions based on what they think is best for the company and its owners. In the globalised world we live in, capital is very mobile. We are generally very successful in retaining and embedding foreign companies in Ireland, unfortunately in this case the company have made a decision to reduce numbers. So the priority now is to retain the remaining jobs and work to create new jobs elsewhere.
The underlying reason for these redundancies is that Liberty Insurance conducted a strategic review of its business and that it will, as a result, withdraw from the personal motor insurance market in Great Britain and make significant changes to its operations in Ireland. The company will now focus on the Republic of Ireland market.
On a more positive note, Liberty Insurance has purchased the remaining minority stake in the company. In addition it has announced the acquisition of a company in Northern Ireland and has continued to invest and create jobs in their Liberty IT division in both Dublin and Belfast. In 2013 the company announced the creation of 150 jobs in an IT project at their Blanchardstown operation and this project is being put in place and is unaffected by the recent announcement.
I am encouraged by the company statement that it is fully committed to Ireland, that it will be seeking voluntary-led redundancies in the first instance and that these will not take place immediately but will be phased over an 18-month period. The company has also stated that attractive redundancies terms will be offered, which should encourage a higher voluntary take-up.
I have asked both IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to redouble their efforts to secure new projects and expand existing operations in Cavan, and to explore all opportunities to replace the jobs being lost there. Enterprise Ireland, has been very successful in recent years, with jobs in their client companies in the Irish-owned sector, having grown in County Cavan by 394 last year.
In addition, the Local Enterprise Office in the County, formerly the County Enterprise Board, has been working to develop the micro-enterprise sector in the county and has helped to develop start up enterprises. That work will, of course, continue.
In relation to the job numbers at the time of the 2011 purchase of Quinn Insurance, the commitment given at that time as part of the takeover was that the 1,570 staff in both jurisdictions were transferred under the EU’s Protection of Employees Rights on Transfer of Undertakings to Liberty Insurance. However this did not guarantee that these job levels would be retained indefinitely. Unfortunately no new employer could give such a blanket guarantee, especially in a volatile and changing market sector.
The State, though IDA Ireland, will continue to engage with the company to seek to influence corporate decisions and to broaden the scope of their operations here. However there are constraints on State supports for companies, either multinational or Irish-owned, whose operations mainly involve the provision of a service for Irish customers, such as is now the case for Liberty Insurance.
Despite the current setback, it should be highlighted that significant progress in addressing the problems of the wider Border region has been made over recent years. As recently as Quarter 3 2012 the unemployment rate in that region stood at 17.7% but by Quarter 1 2015 that had fallen to 10.2%, which of course is still too high but represents a major improvement. An additional 18,000 jobs were put in place over that period in the region which is an impressive achievement. Jobs in Government-supported companies in Cavan have increased by 7% in the recent years following the crash.
I am very conscious of the difficulty in attracting new industry to the regional centres. For this reason I have initiated the preparation of an Action Plan for Jobs for the Border region as part of the drive to increase the level of job creation across the country. Eight Regional Action Plans will be delivered this year, building on the success of the national Action Plan for Jobs process, which has contributed to the creation of over 100,000 new jobs since 2012. Significant progress has been made in preparing the Action Plan for the Border region, which of course includes County Cavan, in consultation with key stakeholders there. My officials are currently finalising that Plan and I anticipate that it will be launched in the Autumn.