'It could be the start of the end': Debenhams shop steward positive after Micheál Martin meeting

'It could be the start of the end': Debenhams shop steward positive after Micheál Martin meeting

Valerie Conlon, Mandate shop steward and one of the ex-Debenhams staff in Cork, pictured this week on the 222nd day of their ongoing strike following the closure of the Debenhams stores.

FORMER Debenhams workers met with Taoiseach Micheál Martin and general secretary of Mandate trade union Gerry Light today in their long-running battle over redundancy following the closure of 11 stores nationwide.

Speaking to The Echo, Valerie Conlon, shop steward at the Patrick St store in Cork, said the meeting “could be the start of the end”.

A protest by Debenhams workers at Leinster House earlier this week. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins
A protest by Debenhams workers at Leinster House earlier this week. Photo:Gareth Chaney/Collins

She said she had no expectations going on the call after being left disappointed following the recent Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) meeting but that she came off the call “feeling a lot better”.

“It was definitely more positive than I thought it was going to be,” she said, after a follow-up meeting to be held next week was agreed to by Mr Martin.

“We stressed to him that we can’t be leaving it go any further than this and that another meeting can’t be in two or three weeks’ time, but sooner rather than later, and he agreed because he wants to see an end to this as well.

“I actually came off the call feeling a lot better. Nothing might come of it but it could be the start of the end, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Speaking in the Dáil this week, Mr Martin reiterated his view that the Debenhams workers have been treated poorly by their former employer but said that finding a resolution to the dispute is not straightforward.

“Those who say it’s simple and say it’s easy, in my view, are misrepresenting the situation,” he said.

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