Debenhams staff fighting for decent redundancy package

By Maurice Garvey

FORMER staff at Debenhams feel they have been “treated like s**t” by the company, as further strikes are set to take place during the liquidation process.

Approximately 100 employees at the Debenhams store in The Square were unceremoniously let go on April 9 - just days after receiving assurances that Irish stores would not be affected by Debenhams UK going into administration.

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Debenhams staff holding an official strike outside The Square on Friday

This was done via a generic email sent out to 1,000 staff at 11 stores nationwide, which asked them to contact social welfare.

Staff are fighting for a “decent redundancy package” and believe the stock in the Irish stores - valued at between €20m and €25m - should be going into the Irish pot and not moved back to the UK.

An official Mandate Trade Union protest took place outside The Square on Friday (June 19), with former staff supported by People Before Profit and Solidarity.

“The business was profitable, as was the online side of it which was built up by staff,” said Bryan Roche, a former Debenhams Tallaght employee for nine years.

“Ideally, we are hoping for our jobs back but that is not a reality. Some of the staff are with the company for over 30 years. We feel there is no support from the outgoing or incoming government.

“This is like a watershed moment. Other employers will do it. We want to work, be recognised for the hard work we do and treated with a bit of respect.”

“We feel like we have been treated like s**t,” said Jackie Burke, former Debenhams Tallaght employee for 22 years.

“I’m 55 and can’t see anyone taking me on but I feel I have more to offer. We are literally fighting this on our own, except for PBP and Solidarity. Everyone in government is doing nothing. We can’t even get in to the store to get personal belongings from our lockers.”

Cllr Kieran Mahon (Sol) warned the retail sector is “facing a massacre” unless there is adequate government intervention.

“These assets (stock) should be used for the 100 people in Tallaght, some of them working here for 20/30 years,” he said.

“Workers should be top of the pile. Companies should be nationalised and put into workers control.”

Cllr Mahon also called for a change in the Irish insolvency laws.

“It highlights how the liquidation situation is loaded in favour of companies. There has been no change since Clerys.”

Michael Meegan, Divisional Organiser Mandate Trade Union, said liquidation usually means the State first and then revenue are the first beneficiaries and “whatever is left” for workers.

“It is all about getting a decent redundancy package and not to be a burden on the taxpayer. The fact that Debenhams UK are still trading, we feel there is an opportunity for them to sort this out.”

Mr Meegan said Mandate have supports for workers in the way of interview training and upskilling CVs.

“We are planning a protest outside Bank of Ireland branches next Friday (June 26), a shareholder of Debenhams,” he said.

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