More than 80 financial services workers in Belfast are facing redundancy, it has emerged.
Outsourcing firm Capita has informed 84 of the 154 staff at its Clarendon Dock offices they are likely to lose thier jobs, and has started consultation with the Unite union.
This latest piece of bad news on the jobs front confirms economists’ predictions that unemployment in Northern Ireland is set to keep rising well into 2010 as the effects of recession linger on.
Capita blamed its decision on the impact of the economic downturn on the life and pensions industry and its inability to attract new business, rather than the loss of any specific contract. Many of the Capita staff facing |the axe administer policies for UK-based life insurance and pensions companies.
A spokeswoman for the company said: “I can confirm that Capita Life and Pensions has announced to staff that it plans to reduce the number of staff working in its Belfast operations centre. The business has been working hard to attract additional work to the site — and this will continue — but at the moment we have no alternative but to reduce our headcount.
“We have entered into a period of consultation with Unite which will last for 30 days. At the end of this date it may, regrettably, be necessary to issue those impacted with formal notice of redundancy.”
Consultation on the redundancies will end on March 30.
The Unite union expressed anger at the cuts, which came just a week after the company announced a 17% rise in its underlying pre-tax profits for last year to £325m.
Daryl Williams, Unite officer said: “Unite is angry that despite a commitment in October 2006 from Capita chief executive, Paul Pindar to grow the Clarendon Dock site in Belfast, Capita has failed to deliver. A once vibrant finance life and pensions service centre will have gone from 450 staff to now less than 75.
“There is no reason why Capita should not invest in Belfast, they have readily available the experienced and skilled staff, space and infrastructure at the site.”
He added: “The union is calling |on Capita to show their commitment to Northern Ireland by reversing |the planned redundancies and deliver on their promise to grow their Belfast operation.”
Last month Capita also placed 65 HR workers “at risk” on its Northern Ireland Civil Service contract as a result of the NICS recruitment freeze.
However, the spokeswoman said that despite the reduction in its workforce the company intended to maintain its presence in Belfast.
The Unite union said that Capita should be prevented from cutting jobs because it is generating profits from taxpayers and licence fee payers through contracts with NICS and the BBC.
Unite also called on Northern Ireland’s politicians to engage with the company to do whatever they can to reverse the job loss announcement.
Last year around 100 sales jobs in Belfast were lost when insurer Prudential opted not to renew a contract with Capita, although the company tried to relocate some employees to other roles.