Debenhams workers participate in National Strike outside 11 stores in across Ireland

Friday 19 June 2020

Hundreds of Mandate Trade Union members employed by Debenhams Ireland launched official pickets outside 11 stores across the Republic of Ireland today (Friday, 19th June) in protest at the company making the workers redundant without redundancy pay.

The company sent a generic email to staff in April informing them that they would not have jobs after the COVID19 crisis.

Brian Forbes, Mandate National Coordinator said: “These workers have a combined service of 10,000 years and yet the company feels it can transfer valuable assets to the UK while refusing these workers redundancy pay. Well they won’t get away with it.”

He explained: “What we know is that the company is still trading in Ireland under the brand which is worth millions and they also transferred their leases to the parent company in the UK, which are also worth millions. A decent employer wouldn’t do that, but a decent legislative system wouldn’t allow it to be done in the first place.”

Debenhams workers let down by Programme for Government

Mr Forbes said the workers and their union, Mandate, are extremely disappointed in the Programme for Government which fails to adequately address the issue of companies transferring assets from one business to another to avoid their responsibilities to their workers.

The Programme for Government states:

Review whether the legal provisions surrounding collective redundancies and the liquidation of companies effectively protect the rights of workers”

Mr Forbes said: “This review has already been done. It’s called the Duffy/Cahill report and it was conducted because of the way workers in Clerys were treated, not to mention how the La Senza, Game, HMV, Connolly Shoes and the Paris Bakery workers were treated.

“The Duffy/Cahill report has been sitting on a shelf for more than four years now. “We’re not short of evidence on this matter, we’re short of action,” said Forbes.

“These workers and other workers who will face a similar situation in the future are being thrown under a bus so that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party can form an anti-worker government again.”

He added, “we’re calling on all three parties to stop the fudging and commit to implement the findings of the Duffy/Cahill report as soon as possible.”

Bringing the fight to the UK

On Wednesday 17th June, Mandate members protested outside the Debenhams store in Belfast. Mr Forbes explained that these types of actions will continue.

“We have been left with very few alternatives other than to bring our battle to the recently reopened Debenhams stores. We don’t want to do it, but when a company treats its workers this way, we won’t be found wanting in seeking to achieve a satisfactory resolution for our members. All Debenhams management have to do is to abide by their own collective agreement in relation to redundancies. That’s all these workers are asking for.”