Management at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin has confirmed it is to seek a reduction in its core staffing numbers of up to one third by December 2005.

SIPTU has said its members at the Abbey Theatre were shocked at the scale of job losses proposed by management.

According to management, a restructuring programme is necessary to stabilise the financial health of the company, which showed a deficit of €800,000 in 2003.

There are currently 91 people employed at the theatre, and it is planned to reduce that number by between 25 and 30 between now and 2005.

This will be achieved by reducing the number of fixed-term contract staff, and through a voluntary leaving programme for permanent staff.

Brian Jackson, Managing Director of the Abbey, outlined the plan to staff members this morning.

Mr Jackson said the decision to reduce staff was not a knee jerk reaction, but was part of a long-term strategy designed to address the structural flaws of the Abbey's current business model.