Belfast Telegraph

Union seeks assurances over jobs at Nortel

By Symon Ross

The Unite union is seeking assurances that a US company buying a division of bankrupt telecoms company Nortel will keep more than 100 jobs in Northern Ireland.

Baltimore-based networks firm Ciena has agreed to purchase Nortel’s Metropolitan Ethernet Networks (MEN) division, which employs 128 people at the Canadian company’s Monkstown plant.

The union said it is determined to protect the jobs after another US firm Avaya opted to withdraw from Northern Ireland after it acquired Nortel’s Enterprise division, a decision that cost 140 jobs at the Newtownabbey factory.

Once North America’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker, Nortel filed for bankruptcy January last year. It is auctioning off its assets in an effort to pay back debtholders, rather than restructuring the business.

Sean Smyth, regional industrial organiser with Unite, has had a meeting with Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.

“We agreed that we should jointly approach Ciena, who will complete its acquisition of the MEN division on March 12, to make sure these jobs stay in Northern Ireland. The minister assured the union that she would be endeavouring to do all in her power to keep these jobs.”

Mrs Foster had warmly welcomed the Avaya deal to save some Nortel jobs in December, but within a month the company told employees it Northern Ireland was not part of its future plans.

Ciena has so far made no comment on its future plans but Mr Smyth said he remained “hopeful” the jobs would stay because it has given no indication cuts are on the cards.

Belfast Telegraph

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