Aviva Insurance has announced it is to make 950 people redundant at its Irish operation.

No jobs will be lost before March 2012 and the full implementation of the redundancy programme could take up to two years.

The company, which employs over 2,000 staff in Ireland, invited staff to business updates in Dublin, Cork and Galway this morning.

In a statement the company said Aviva Ireland was to be combined with its UK division.

The company is to shed 180 roles from Aviva Europe with the balance, 770, coming from Aviva Ireland.

Aviva said it would look at the feasibility of establishing additional centres in Ireland to serve customers in the UK, as the business grows.

It said this could potentially mitigate the reduction in roles in Ireland by approximately 200.

Aviva says it will engage with the Central Bank of Ireland in relation to any new structures or outsourcing proposals that it may have.

Chief Executive of Aviva Europe Igal Mayer and several executives were in Dublin for the announcement.

The Aviva staff briefing in Cork took just under an hour.

A representative of the company handed out a statement to waiting media but said nobody would be available to comment on how the Cork operation would be affected.

Over 200 people are employed at the Cork operation processing claims.

Aviva staff belonging to the UNITE trade union have voted overwhelmingly to ballot for industrial action over the plan.

The vote was taken at a briefing by UNITE officials attended by over 500 staff members.

UNITE spokesman Brian Gallagher said tonight's meeting of staff in Dublin was angry and determined.

Aviva decision a 'legacy issue' - Bruton

Minister for Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation Richard Bruton said the announcement from Aviva Insurance that Aviva is to shed 950 jobs is a "legacy issue".

Mr Bruton said a 30% collapse in the domestic market had led to the change, which he said was of such a scale companies had to react.

The minister said he had met with executives from Aviva at a global level to see what opportunities could arise out of the announcement, he said there was a possibility to locate a “centre of excellence” in Ireland which he said was good, but he added, "this is clearly a bad situation".

Mr Bruton said a number of legacy reforms in the legal profession, banking, wage setting, innovation and competitiveness were needed.

He said a repair job needs to be done in the Irish economy but he said internationally the country is getting credit for its efforts.

Asked if the announcement proved there was nothing Government could do about decisions made by big business, the minister said there was always something than can be done.

He said the IDA is already working with Aviva to see what positives can arise out of the announcement. He admitted Governments can't stop the impact of commercial scales like Aviva's announcement today. He said the job losses were announced as a result of a domestic economy collapse.

Unite has said staff at Aviva are in a "state of shock".

Regional officer Brian Gallagher said: "The axe has fallen harder and sharper than the worst fears of staff. They are stunned and scared by what they have been told.

"Unite will enter a period of consultation which management has undertaken to be "as long as is needed", and we will be looking for justification of every job that is being cut or transferred."

Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Dáil that today was an awful day for the employees of Aviva given the scale of the job losses.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin accused the Government of not engaging actively with the company.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the entitlements of workers at Aviva had been set aside to maintain the excesses of elites at Aviva.