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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 January 2008, 15:40 GMT
Strike action for embassy staff
By Diarmaid Fleming
BBC NI Dublin correspondent

British Embassy in Dublin
The dispute over jobs is taking place at the British Embassy in Dublin
Staff at the British Embassy in Dublin are set to strike in a dispute over job cuts, after talks to avoid such action failed.

They are angry that three of their colleagues are to lose their jobs in compulsory redundancies.

The embassy is the only British diplomatic mission in the world where workers are members of a trade union.

Staff who are members of the trade union, Unite, voted 90% in favour of strike action.

The three senior officials, who face redundancy, work in the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) section at the embassy and have been told they are no longer required.

The section advises UK firms exporting to Ireland and Irish business investing in the UK.

The Irish staff are so angry that they have voted by 90% in favour of strike action
Colm Quinlan
Unite

The cuts are part of what the embassy says is a "global strategy" to shift resources to "high growth markets", allocating staff to countries where prospects of economic growth are higher.

Unite regional officer Colm Quinlan said that the three who face losing their jobs are the most senior and highest paid officials in the section.

"They have 20 years experience between them, and the embassy has refused to discuss redeployment," he said.

"These are targeted redundancies. The Irish staff are so angry that they have voted by 90% in favour of strike action.

"We have served strike notice for one day on 7th of February. Obviously there is time for discussion before then, but we will consider what further action to take if necessary."

Talks between the union and the embassy which began on Tuesday broke down on Wednesday.

In a statement after the ballot result was announced, the British Embassy said that as talks had failed, the redundancies would now go ahead.

The embassy has followed established consultation procedures throughout this process and has fully complied with Irish labour law
British Embassy

The statement said: "These redundancies, which we very much regret, are in line with UKTI's strategy to transfer resources to a number of key emerging markets.

"Resource reductions, including redundancies, are also being made in other parts of UKTI's overseas network.

"There will still be an important role for the Embassy's UKTI team in Dublin which, as in so many other global organisations, is being restructured to meet the needs of a mature market in a globalised economy.

"The embassy has followed established consultation procedures throughout this process and has fully complied with Irish labour law.

"In addition, we have offered the three individuals concerned redundancy packages consistent with good employer practice."

Officials also said that three UK-based staff in the UKTI section were also to lose their jobs as part of the cuts.

The embassy in Dublin - located in a modern concrete fortress in the city's Ballsbridge embassy belt - is believed to be the only British diplomatic mission in the world where staff are members of trade unions.

It employs 69 staff, with 53 Irish people employed locally, most of whom are trade union members.

Officials said that the embassy would remain open, regardless of a strike.

The last time the British Embassy in Dublin was forced to shut was when it was bombed when a huge crowd protested after British soldiers shot 14 people dead on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972.

In 1976, the newly-appointed ambassador Christopher Ewart-Biggs was assassinated by the IRA in a bomb attack in Dublin.

The posting during the Troubles was one of the most sensitive for British diplomats, but with the political resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland, the embassy in Dublin is now largely concerned with trade and cultural matters.



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