Ex-Debenhams workers mark 300 days on strike – reiterate call on Taoiseach to make funds available to workers

Wednesday 3 February 2021

Today marks 300 days since 1,000 Debenhams workers in the Republic of Ireland received an email telling them they’d lost their jobs and their company had entered liquidation.

Since then, the workers have mounted official pickets on 11 stores including four in Dublin – Henry Street, Blackrock, Blanchardstown and Tallaght, as well as Galway, Tralee, Newbridge, Limerick, Waterford and two stores in Cork – Mahon Point and Patrick Street.

The workers are again calling on the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, to make a €3m training fund established for the workers available as a cash payment, and to legislate to make sure this never happens again:

Michelle Gavin, shop steward from the Debenhams Waterford store said:

“This is the government’s fault. They let Debenhams do this to us, so they should fix it and make it right.”

She added, “It has only recently come to our attention that the government allowed bank workers in the IBRC (formerly Anglo Irish Bank & Irish Nationwide) avail of a cash payment fund similar to what we have requested, yet they won’t allow us the same entitlement.

“Is it because we’re retail workers and not bankers that we don’t deserve the same treatment?”

Valerie Conlon, shop steward from the Patrick Street store in Cork said:

“I’m particularly annoyed that the Taoiseach hasn’t bothered to respond to the last two letters from our Union. We’ve spent 300 days in hail, rain and snow during a pandemic, and all because the Government refused to legislate to protect workers in redundancy situations back in 2016. The very least he could do is afford us the courtesy of a response.”

Gerry Light, Mandate General Secretary said the Government can resolve this dispute immediately if the political will was there:

“The ex-Debenhams workers only have two demands.

“Firstly, they want the €3m fund established for training to be made available as a cash payment, and secondly, they want legislation implemented to prevent this from happening to any workers in the future.”

He added, “These workers have paid their dues. They’ve paid their taxes for up to 40 years. The least the Taoiseach and the rest of the Government could do is show their appreciation and respect by making a genuine effort to resolve this dispute.”

Mr Light explained that Mandate had written to the Taoiseach on behalf of the ex-Debenhams workers on 13th January and again on the 25th January but haven’t received a response to either correspondence.

“We met with the ex-Debenhams members in recent days and to say they are disappointed is an understatement. They deserve better than to be ignored by the Taoiseach, and by the Government.”

He concluded, “I want to commend the workers for their courage and determination in both seeking a resolution for themselves and their families, but also for their solid commitment to ensuring that no other workers have to go through this again. The entire trade union movement is deeply proud of their 300 day action and we are firmly behind them.”