Debenhams workers from as far afield as Cork will be protesting outside the Debenhams store on Foyle Street in Derry today (Friday, 10th July) between 12 noon and 2pm to make consumers aware of their employer’s “despicable” actions.
More than 1,000 Debenhams workers in 11 stores across the Republic of Ireland were notified that they’d lost their jobs in April after the company sought to enter liquidation.
However, the company didn’t set aside finances to pay the workers their agreed redundancy package, having transferred valuable assets to the UK parent company.
Valerie Conlon who worked in the Debenhams store on Patrick Street in Cork for 24 years said:
“We are not going to let this company just walk away and not pay. We’ve given decades of service and helped make huge profits for Debenhams so for them to just abandon their responsibilities is a disgrace.”
She added, “We will be making everyone aware of how Debenhams treats its workers, and if that means traveling six hours to Derry, so be it. If they can do this to us and get away with it, how do we know it won’t be the workers in Derry next?”
John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary said:
“I have to commend these workers for standing up and fighting back against their despicable treatment. They’ve travelled to Belfast, they’ve protested outside the Dail, they’ve stood on picket lines all across the country and they’re not going to back down.
“These workers have a combined service of over 10,000 years. They deserve a satisfactory resolution to this dispute and the company knows what it needs to do. Pay the workers the redundancy they are owed. If they don’t, Mandate Trade Union will continue to support the workers as they campaign for justice.”
Mr Douglas sent a strong message to the new government in the Republic of Ireland.
“Three years ago, on the back of the Clerys, Paris Bakery and La Senza debacle, the Protection Of Employees (Collective Redundancies) Bill 2017 was tabled by David Cullinane TD. It would’ve resolved many of the issues the Debenhams workers are facing today including allowing the High Court to return assets which have been improperly transferred out of the business and giving preferential creditor status to employees – allowing workers faster access to their entitlements.”
He added, “Unfortunately that Fine Gael government with the support of Fianna Fail refused to pursue that Bill. They’ve now been given a second opportunity to implement the Bill after Louise O’Reilly TD tabled an updated version of the Bill this week.”
Mr Douglas concluded, “The Taoiseach said only this week that Debenhams ‘should do the right thing.’ Well so should his government. No more excuses. Stop wasting time with more unnecessary reviews and legislate to ensure this never happens again. Otherwise when workers find themselves in this situation in the coming months and years, they’ll know exactly who to blame.”