11 June 2020
By Elaine Murphy
Debenhams stores are reopening in the North and UK, but workers say they are disgusted at their sacking without redundancy and will not allow valuable stock inside the stores be moved out.
The protests will also highlight the lack of action by the government as more and more famous brands disappear from High Streets and shopping centres.
“Debenhams Retail Ltd in the UK are trying to claim all the valuable assets and online business for themselves. This is despite it being said twice in court that Debenhams.ie belonged to Debenhams Ireland. How can this be allowed to happen? We want to send a strong and clear message that no stock will move from the shops because we workers won’t allow it,” said Jane Crowe, shop-steward in Henry Street, Dublin
“Is the government and the Dail going to sit by and allow a Clerys Mk II, but on a bigger scale?”, she said.
“Since we were laid off in April, we have appealed to politicians to stop a jobs massacre in the retail sector. Now, Debenhams, Oasis, Warehouse, Monsoon and Accessorise are fully or partially closing down. Thousands of families like ours will suffer and no action has been taken to try prevent it or put funds in to stop it happening, “ said Valerie Conlon, shop-steward at Patrick Street in Cork.
“We want decent redundancy payments for our years of service and the stock inside the shops won’t be going anywhere until we get that,” she said.
Workers in Debenhams have been asking for the company’s finances to be examined as a number of stores are profitable. Workers research has found
- “Debenhams Ireland say business was not viable, but the annual turnover for the years 2016-2018 was actually higher than 2011- 2015. There were 1803 employees in 2010 and only 1373 in 2018, so pension contributions and payroll costs would have been considerably less.
- The company’s most recent audited accounts for the financial year ending 1/9/18 show a pre tax loss of €20.6 million — but this included exceptional items/costs of €18.8 million, which means the actual loss was €1.8 million.
- 17 % of sales were online in 2018, equating to €28.7 million. The High Court was told on two occasions that the online business was owned by the Irish company. Yet the online business has since been swiped by the UK parent company. The lucrative online business is worth even more now with no Debenhams stores in Ireland.”