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Unions say 'do the right thing' after Accenture's announcement of 890 layoffs in Ireland

The unions have also demanded to know why there are still jobs in Ireland being advertised on Accenture’s website.

TRADE UNIONS ARE asking for an explanation from Accenture after the multinational IT service and consultancy firm announced on Monday that 890 jobs are to be cut from its Irish staff.

The latest round of redundancies comes after almost 400 Irish-based Accenture employees lost their jobs in March. 

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), the Financial Services Union (FSU) and the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) have all called on Accenture to provide further detail regarding the nature of the layoffs as well as the reasons why its Irish staff have been affected more than others. 

The latest round of layoffs represents almost 14 percent of the company’s Irish workforce of 6,500.

The unions have also demanded to know why there are still jobs in Ireland being advertised on Accenture’s website. 

“As things stand the nature of the layoffs look like they’re going to be compulsory,” CWU spokesperson Ian McArdle told The Journal. He said that there has been no indication from Accenture that there will be a voluntary scheme. 

He also pointed to the sheer scale of the layoff as reason to believe that the redundancies will not be voluntary. 

As for the kinds of workers affected, McArdle said they are likely to be mainly content moderators, the people who assess and take down illegal or banned videos and images from social media sites. 

As McArdle says, it can be “very challenging and very difficult work”. 

“These are the people who keep the internet safe for the rest of us. They have to view what you might call the worst of humanity. It’s a tough job, they do it very well and unfortunately they are the people who are most likely in the scope for redundancy.

“So, we’re calling on Accenture to do the right thing.”

In a joint statement issued by the FSU and CWU, the two unions asked Accenture to “explain why they are aggressively targeting their Irish operation for redundancies and described it as ‘disproportionate to what is happening elsewhere’”.

Commenting on the announcement John O’Connell, general secretary of the FSU said that given the fact that the company is still recruiting for positions in Ireland, the unions “would like to understand the rationale behind these announcements and the reasons why Accenture have aggressively targeted their Irish operation for redundancies. 

“An explanation is required for the staff who have shown loyalty to Accenture, and worked hard to contribute to the company’s growth and success. Our members raised concerns in relation to the last consultation process that went unanswered and have again contacted their Unions to ask for our help and support through the current consultation process.

“We are requesting immediate engagement with the company on this and other issues in relation to the consultation process.”

Sean McDonagh, general secretary of the CWU, described the situation for technology workers in general as “worrying and stressful” and called on the minister for trade, enterprise and employment Simon Coveney to be “proactive” in ensuring staff are treated fairly during the redundancy process.

“The CWU and the FSU are available to support our members and request that Accenture facilitate this fair and reasonable request on behalf of their staff,” he said.

“Staff are shocked and distraught at the news this week and to ask them to undertake a consultation process of this size, in these circumstances, is profoundly unfair. It places an overwhelming burden on the shoulders of ordinary workers at a time when they need additional support, not extra pressure.”

McDonagh added that the union understands the process of electing employee representatives is underway and that the timeframe for the consultation period has been set. 

“To ensure a fair and transparent process Accenture needs to ensure that the employee representatives have professional representation via their trade unions at these consultation meetings.”

The joint statement also said that “both Unions insist that the redundancy process is a voluntary led approach. This is the practice in industrial relations in Ireland and we expect that Accenture will conform to what normally occurs in other sectors of the economy.”

Speaking in Cork today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the medium to long term outlook for the tech sector in Ireland remains positive, even if there is currently some “retrenching” and “downsizing” in the sector. 

During a visit to the Apple plant in Hollyhill, Varadkar said that the tech sector had grown very rapidly during the pandemic. 

“It is now retrenching a bit. Downsizing by about five or fifteen percent and I think that is still ongoing. But I am convinced in the medium to long term that we are going to see a lot more tech jobs in Ireland.

“Why do I think that? Because the future is digital. The future is artificial intelligence. The future is virtual reality. The future is robotics. There is only going to be more of that in the medium to long term.

“When I visit schools, and I talk to young people, I always encourage them to continue to study science, technology, engineering and maths precisely for that reason. Because this is going to be a growth sector in the medium to long term.” 

Varadkar was asked about supports which could be given to laid off tech workers given that we are approaching the Budget this year with a surplus. 

He said that the Government was monitoring the situation and planned to provide every support possible, whilst calling on companies who are downsizing to treat their employees fairly. 

“Workers who get laid off are entitled to redundancy payments from their employer. What I am saying to companies that are downsizing, that are still profitable, that the basic redundancy of two weeks per year of service isn’t enough.  

“We expect companies that are profitable, not withstanding the fact that they are downsizing, to offer much better exit packages for their employees and in fairness most of them are doing that.” 

Varadkar was joined on the visit to the Apple plant on the northside of Cork City by minister Coveney and Cork North Central TD Colm Burke. Coveney was keen to emphasise that Ireland “is at full employment at the moment.” 

“There have of course been some high profile layoffs in and by tech companies this year. From our experience in the Department of Enterprise those people have found employment very quickly elsewhere. Because they are highly skilled people. 

He said that the Government would assist people in finding new work or going into education if necessary, adding that “in most cases they will be sought after by other companies.

He also pointed out that the tech sector has already announced around 12,000 new jobs in Ireland.

“So yes we have seen some reductions (in the tech sector) but we have also seen growth.”


- with additional reporting from Olivia Kelleher  


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