Debenhams workers fast on the picket line to raise funds for Marymount

Debenhams workers fast on the picket line to raise funds for Marymount

Four ex-Debenhams staff (from left) Madeline Whelan, Gillian McSweeney, Valerie Conlon, Mandate shop steward, and Vivian O'Regan pictured outside the store on St Patrick's St where they are doing a 12 hour fast in aid of Marymount Hospice during their official strike on day 160 of the dispute. Picture: Denis Minihane.

FORMER Debenhams workers in Cork city are partaking in a 12 hour fast today on the picket line in aid of Marymount Hospice.

Speaking to The Echo, Shop Steward Valerie Conlon said the former workers decided to do the fundraiser as a gesture of thanks to the people of Cork for their support over the past number of months.

“We’re doing the 12 hour fast because people have been so good supporting us over the course of 160 days.

“Even last week during the sit-in, the amount of people that came and supported us was incredible.

“We wanted to pay people back.

“We wanted to pay Cork city back, so this is what we’re doing to say thank you to everyone,” she said.

People have been encouraged to wear red today to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Cork winning the Double and to make a donation to Marymount as part of the 'Go Red For Cork’ campaign.

For the former Debenhams workers, tomorrow marks 161 days on the picket line – a significant milestone as it is the same length of time as the Vita Cortex workers in Cork engaged in their sit-in for.

The workers at Vita Cortex in Ballyphehane ended their marathon sit-in protest on May 24, 2012 after the workers finally started receiving redundancy payments.

The dispute lasted more than five months and garnered local, national and international attention.

Ms Conlon said she can’t quite believe the former Debenhams workers are about to surpass 161 days on the picket line.

“When I was first asked would we catch up to the Vita Cortex 161 days, I think we were about 90 days in and I said ‘no way’ but here we are 160 days, we’re making history for Cork once again because we’re going to be bypassing the 161 days.

“Vita Cortex will be coming down to us tomorrow to show their support,” she said.

The former workers at the retail chain have been protesting since April in a dispute with the firm over redundancy terms after 1,000 workers lost their jobs when the chain went into liquidation.

Despite the lengthy battle in fighting for a fair redundancy package, Valerie said the former workers remain determined to plough on.

“We’ll continue on. We’ll bypass the 161 days and we’ll just get stronger as we have been doing,” she said.

Meanwhile, Solidarity TD Mick Barry lauded the efforts of the former Debenhams workers.

"The Vita Cortex struggle is a byword in Cork for marathon endurance by workers in pursuit of a just cause.

“The fact that the Debenhams workers' struggle is drawing level in duration with the Vita Cortex struggle is a tribute to the heroism and determination of these workers.

“They now need a speedy and just resolution to their dispute and if the Government aren't inclined to step in and provide it then the national trade union leadership have a responsibility to step up and really intensify the pressure on the Government to do so,” he said.

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