Cork Debenhams workers balloted on further action in fight for fair redundancy

Cork Debenhams workers balloted on further action in fight for fair redundancy
Debehams workers Michelle Coughlan-Price, Sarah Gleeson, Sinead Casey and supporter Cllr Mick Nugent (SF) at City Hall earlier this month.Pic; Larry Cummins

DEBENHAMS staff in Ireland are being balloted this week for possible strike action.

Ballots will be counted on Friday afternoon, following protests outside all eleven Irish stores, including on Patrick’s Street and at Mahon Point Shopping Centre.

“We want to make sure that we have that in our armoury in case we need to use it. How we use it is another question,” Mandate Trade Union General Secretary John Douglas told The Echo.

The company laid off its employees at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, and they’re on the Covid payment from the Government. Following that, a liquidator was appointed to the Debenhams Ireland Company.

Mandate Trade Union have been in contact with liquidators KPMG but are now calling for an extension to the liquidation consultation period.

On Wednesday, Debenhams staff in Cork delivered letters to the KPMG offices calling for the extension. Workers in Dublin also protested outside the Dáil on Wednesday.

Valerie Conlon, Mandate rep at Cork’s Patrick Street store, said that the consultation period on the liquidation is due to finish on Monday, but said they wanted to extend it “for as long as we can get.” 

Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said that the union had negotiated a fair redundancy package previously, but staff may now be left without any payments for holiday entitlements and may only be entitled to state statutory redundancy.

Despite the company being in the process of being wound down, Mr Douglas said that the union are still in dispute with them and can ballot for strike action.

“The company hasn’t been wound up yet. It’s in the process of being wound up, but it’s a legal entity still as it stands. Whether we would actually physically picket is another question, but we’ll work something out,” he said.

Further protests outside most Debenhams stores across the country are planned again for Friday at 12 noon, organised by the Mandate Trade Union, and will take place on Patrick’s Street and outside Mahon Point in Cork.

Numbers are limited to 20 staff members, while social distancing guidelines will be adhered to.

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