Belfast Telegraph

Uncertain future for employees at Nortel

By Lindsay Fergus

A question mark hangs over the future of hundreds of employees at troubled telecoms company Nortel after one part of the business was snapped up by Avaya.

The US company has acquired Nortel’s Enterprise Division 11 months after Nortel went into administration blaming “adverse economic conditions”.

Under the deal, which came to light yesterday and is understood to be worth $900 million, 40% of the 350-strong workforce at the Monkstown plant has transferred to Avaya.

However, the future remains uncertain for the remaining 200 staff. Efforts are being made to find suitable buyers for Nortel’s remaining four divisions.

Trade union Unite has cautiously welcomed the acquisition but it has expressed fears for additional redundancies next year. In March 90 employees were axed with only statutory redundancy pay, which prompted protests at the Doagh Road site.

Sean Smyth, regional industrial organiser with Unite, said: “Union officials will be seeking an urgent meeting with the new owners to discuss the plant’s future at Monkstown.

“The cloud of further redundancies hangs over the plant and we need to iron out any difficulties as speedily as possible. Unite is further concerned that Avaya has only leased the Monkstown site for one year.”

He added: “We are happy to note a positive aspect of this new deal is that the new company owners have given the union an assurance that if there is a need for further job losses at Monkstown, then it will honour the existing contract of employment which offers an enhanced redundancy package.”

In a statement New Jersey-based Avaya said: “The addition of Nortel Enterprise Solutions (NES) further enhances Avaya’s strategic position in providing business communications solutions and services for enterprise customers. The acquisition gives the company added scale, resources and expertise to deliver a portfolio of solutions and services around the globe.”

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said the announcement was “extremely positive news for Nortel and the workers at Monkstown”.

She added: “I understand that the remaining elements of Nortel’s business have successfully been auctioned to other major international telecommunications companies and those deals are currently progressing through the necessary regulatory clearances. Invest NI is working to profile the strength of the company’s local capabilities to ensure the best possible outcome.”

Invest NI has invoiced Nortel for £7.4m after it breached the terms of a financial assistance agreement signed in June 2006 by entering administration.

However, to date the business body has not received any payments and is not expected to until all of the Nortel acquistions are concluded next year. Only then can the administrator Ernst & Young deal with demands from creditors.

Belfast Telegraph