Last Exchange staff to go with loss of 999 contract

Eircom"s premises at Blackhall Place in Mullingar looks set to be closed by the end of this year.Earlier this year, Mullingar-based directory enquiry staff were given the option of accepting voluntary redundancy or moving to Athlone - now set to go are the 25 staff remaining in the centre, who are on hand exclusively to deal with 999 calls.In June, the directory enquiry staff who chose to accept the redeployment offer, made their move to Athlone.However, in May, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan TD announced that BT Ireland was to take over from eircom in providing this country"s emergency call answering service - which up to this was handled by eircom staff in Dublin and Mullingar.The news that BT Ireland had been awarded the contract was accompanied by the announcement of a €10m investment and the creation of one hundred new jobs in call centres in Ballyshannon, Donegal, Navan, Meath and East Point Business Park, Dublin. The official government announcement made no mention of the employees who are currently operating this emergency service.'We felt angry when all the national press was filled with job creation in Navan and Ballyshannon with no mention of Mullingar and the service being provided by the Eircom employees in Blackhall Place,' said an Eircom employee, who asked to remain nameless.'The directory enquiry staff have already left the building in Blackhall and are now operating from Athlone. The only people left here are the 999 workers.'It"s as though Mullingar is invisible.'Noel Dempsey is looking after Navan and Mary Coughlan is looking after Ballyshannon but who is looking after Mullingar?'The Communications Workers" Union (CWU) has told its members that a number of options are open to them when the contract transfers from Eircom to BT Ireland.'There are clear routes available to the operators currently providing the 999 service,' said Ray Lawlor CWU.continued on page 4