Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Friday, 29 May 2009 18:38 UK

Ex-Nortel staff protest over cuts

Ex-employees protesting in London on Friday
Ex-employees protested outside the London offices of Ernst and Young

Staff made redundant without pay or any warning from Telecoms giant Nortel have been protesting across the UK.

Nortel Networks UK went into administration when its parent firm filed for US bankruptcy protection. More than 220 staff have been laid off.

Former staff from the UK headquarters in Maidenhead held a protest outside the London offices of administrators Ernst and Young.

Meanwhile, a separate protest was held outside the Belfast offices.

The firm had employed about 1,200 staff at its Maidenhead site in Berkshire.

About 800 staff were also employed in Harlow in Essex, north Lanarkshire, London and Newtownabbey in County Antrim.

How can they not afford it if they can pay bonuses to executives within 10 days of kicking us out
Lynn Forbes
Former Nortel employee

Nortel has not confirmed the exact whereabouts of the job losses but 228 posts went across the UK, including 86 staff in Northern Ireland.

The protesters say there was no statutory redundancy consultation period and they were only given two days notice of the meeting held by Ernst and Young in which they were laid off.

They are fighting for the redundancy pay they believe they are owed.

Lynn Forbes, who worked at the Maidenhead offices, said about 20 people were involved in the protest in London.

She said many former staff could not afford the train fare.

The protesters were asked to leave after about an hour, she added.

Two of her former colleagues were invited inside Ernst and Young's offices, she said, but when they realised there was "nothing new on the table", they left.

Other staff paid

She said Ernst and Young had previously told them Nortel could not afford to pay the redundancy money.

"They say they can't afford it, but how can they not afford it if they can pay bonuses to executives within 10 days of kicking us out," she said.

The former staff say their Nortel workers in France and Germany who were also made redundant have been given "full recognition" and redundancy pay.

In a statement, Ernst and Young said: "No consultation took place as it was not reasonably practicable to do so, and employment legislation recognises that there are situations in which swift action needs to be taken and it is not reasonably practicable to consult.

"Although regrettable, the redundancies, without the support of the redundancy packages that had been paid in past restructuring programmes pre-administration, were necessary for the survival of the business and in accordance with insolvency law."

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