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Eircom talks to unions to ax 1,000 jobs

IRELAND'S largest telecommunications provider, Eircom Group PLC, said on Saturday that it is negotiating with unions to cut more than 1,000 jobs in the next 18 months.

The formerly state-owned company, which is now the target of a hostile takeover bid, is seeking the cuts as part of a strategy to reduce annual costs by a reported 130 million euros (US$170 million).

"There have been discussions on our whole restructuring plan across a range of issues to reduce our operating costs," Eircom spokesman Paul Bradley said, adding it was not clear yet if the cuts would be voluntary or not.

Staff pay cuts and a voluntary layoffs were already announced earlier this year at the company, which employs more than 7,500 workers.

Eircom was sold three years ago to Australian company Babcock & Brown Capital. A group of former Eircom executives, who have formed the TaemasBridge vehicle, have offered 95 million euros for the company.

Eircom told employees last Thursday that it rejected the proposal as "damaging to Eircom's interests and future."

Eircom is struggling with 3.8 billion euros in debt. In the three months ending on December 31, Eircom reported that earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was down 5 percent compared to a year earlier at 164 million euros.

Steve Fitzpatrick, general secretary of the Communications Workers Union, told the Irish Times the unions had been talking with Eircom for several weeks about the cost-cutting measures.

Eircom owns the major fixed-line network in Ireland and is the biggest Internet service provider in the country. Its mobile phone arm, Meteor, is the third-largest.



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