Debenhams workers protest outside Belfast store

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Debenhams workers from across the Republic of Ireland are protesting today (Wednesday, 17th June) outside the Belfast store on Royal Avenue between 12 noon and 2pm as part of their campaign to win redundancy pay for more than 1,000 workers.

Debenhams management notified workers in the Republic of Ireland by email in April stating they would have no jobs to return to after the COVID19 pandemic had passed. The company transferred valuable assets out of the country before they sought liquidation, severely limiting the chance of workers obtaining redundancy payments from the company.

The workers, who are all Mandate Trade Union members from the Republic of Ireland, have been protesting for a number of weeks outside 11 closed stores. They say they have been left with no alternative but to bring their campaign to the recently reopened store in Belfast.

Brian Forbes, Mandate’s National Coordinator for Campaigns said the frustration and disappointment at the workers’ treatment means this issue will not be going away until the workers have a satisfactory outcome:

“These workers have a combined 10,000 years of service to this company, helping to generate profits for the owners year after year. All of a sudden the company feels it can abandon their loyal workers who are left wondering how they’re going to feed their families and pay their bills,” said Forbes.

He added, “If management think they could treat these workers with such disrespect and get away with it, they can think again. The workers are up for the fight and so is their trade union.”

Mr Forbes explained that the workers are simply seeking what they’re entitled to under a collective agreement between the company and the Mandate Trade Union.

“This dispute is easily resolved. The company should live up to its obligations and abide by the redundancy agreement that the company freely entered into with the workers in 2016.”

Mr Forbes warned that the dispute has the potential to escalate.

“We’re protesting outside the Belfast store today, but next week it could be Derry, and the week after it could be Liverpool or Manchester. We are not going away until the workers get what they deserve. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to the general public and to the Debenhams workers in the Belfast store but we’d ask everyone to be mindful that this could happen to them in the not-so-distant future if the company thinks it can get away with it.”