Union protest at job cuts threat
Union activists left their annual conference to stage a protest outside the offices of an insurance firm which has raised the threat of job cuts.
Ageas has entered a 90-day consultation with employees over the potential closure of its Belfast call centre with the loss of 200 jobs.
Members of the Communication Workers Union held a demonstration in Bournemouth, where the company has one of its main offices.
Lawrence Huston, the CWU's Northern Ireland regional secretary, said: "The decision to close this call centre has come as a complete shock to the workforce and will be devastating for the people employed there and the local community. This is 200 people's lives, their families and the wider community which are being left in the lurch by a successful, profitable company.
"Despite concerted pressure from the trade union movement, local MPs and MLAs, we have been unable to get Ageas management to even meet with us."
The company said: "The company employs 200 people in Belfast who provide outbound calling services to potential customers for its RIAS and Castle Cover brands.
"Over the last two years there has been a significant drop in sales from this activity reflecting both the changing behaviour of consumers, who are becoming less responsive to outbound calls and declining performance from consumer databases. This has led to the difficult situation where the Belfast site has become increasingly uneconomical.
"There will now be a consultation period with employees until June where the proposal and any viable alternatives will be fully explored.
"If suitable solutions cannot be found, Ageas Retail will do all it can to help employees find alternative employment including the provision of additional outplacement and career services support. The outcome of the consultation will be confirmed by June 2015."