Taoiseach Micheál Martin has committed to reviewing legislation in light of the closure of Debenhams in Ireland.
He was speaking in response to Cork North Central TD Mick Barry, as well as to Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, in the Dáil on Tuesday.
Debenhams workers successfully stopped stock being removed from the store on Patrick’s Street in Cork on Monday, while similar attempts were made to remove stock from locations in Dublin on Tuesday.
Solidarity’s Mick Barry, who stood with the workers during their blockade, highlighted in the Dáil the need for a meaningful 30-day consultation period, with company books being made available to workers and their representatives.
He also said that in anticipation of further waves of Covid-19 and potential lockdown scenarios “legislation needs to provide for a suspension of liquidations that arise from the impact of Covid in order to permit time and space to examine the option of saving jobs.”
In his response Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the legal framework would be examined in relation to Debenhams workers’ experience and “the behaviour of the company involved.”
He also agreed that the consultation must be meaningful, and agreed to look at the possibility of full access to a company’s books and all relevant material in that scenario.
During Leader’s Questions, Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett also raised the Debenhams issue and said that what’s happened is a “despicable treatment of workers”.
He asked the Taoiseach what he would do to support the workers, calling for “serious penalties” for treating staff in the manner they have.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that he thinks Debenhams have treated workers “very poorly and in a very shabby way.
“It is unacceptable. In my view the legislation will have to be re-examined in terms of the devices that companies may use...to deprive workers of their just entitlements to avail of redundancies,” he said.
The Taoiseach added that the closure during Covid-19 was “particularly regrettable.
“I think the situation was used as a basis for closing the company leaving 1,500 people out of work,” he concluded.
Debenhams informed their staff via email in early April that Irish stores were closing, and staff have been protesting since the closure for a fair redundancy package from the company.
They have also vowed not to allow stock to be removed from the stores until that happens.