21 April 2020
By Bryan Smyth
Cork North Central TD Mick Barry and Ruth Coppinger of the Solidarity political party have both given their full backing to protest actions taking place today (Tuesday) by Debenhams workers.
Workers at seven stores in Cork, Dublin, and Waterford will hold simultaneous protests at 11 am while workers who can’t take part, will hold virtual solidarity protests.
Cork North Central TD Mick Barry said the workers’ actions were justified given the implications of Debenhams deliberately shutting up shop during a pandemic.
“Retail Ireland have spoken of a risk to 110,000 jobs in the months ahead. Already we’ve seen closures at Debenhams, Oasis, Warehouse and Laura Ashley. That’s why it’s so important to see the Debenhams workers standing their ground and fighting this injustice.
Debenhams must not be allowed to simply shut the shops, flee the country, dump the workers on the dole and force the taxpayer to foot the bill. Nor should the Government be allowed to stand idly by and declare that it’s not their problem. The State has a share in one of the banks, Bank of Ireland, which shut down Debenhams and it needs to step in and try to protect jobs here”
Meanwhile, Ruth Coppinger said the closures by four major retail chains would have a hugely detrimental impact in many communities, like her own in Blanchardstown, reliant on such jobs.
“Many families are reliant on the wages of these overwhelmingly female workforces. 150 jobs lost in Debenhams, and then others in Warehouse, Oasis and Laura Ashley will be a real blow in Dublin 15 and to Blanchardstown Centre itself. Debenhams workers are being treated like dirt by a company some of them helped launch, having started their working lives in Roches Stores.”
A statement from the political party called for books to be opened up for inspection by workers reps and also to explore what diversification can grow the businesses and sustain these jobs.
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“Online business should be brought into the reckoning. Ten years ago, Debenhams apparently paid six weeks redundancy for every year of employment but it’s obvious they now want to pay nothing and leave the Irish taxpayer foot the bill for statutory redundancy. The entire trade union movement and communities must take a stand.”