Debenhams workers are holding a Day of Action nationally today, protesting for the third time and calling on political parties to support state intervention to save their jobs.
A small group of 15 workers, made up of Mahon Point and Patrick Street workers, stood outside City Hall for 20 minutes this morning, alongside the Lord Mayor John Sheehan.
Approximately 700 workers, including concession staff, formally lost their jobs last Thursday when the retailer applied to be liquidated.
Speaking to The Echo, Cork spokesperson for the employees Valerie Conlon said Debenhams workers also delivered letters to the offices of Fianna Fāil leader Micheāl Martin, Tanaiste Simon Coveney and Fianna Fāil TD Michael McGrath at 11.30am.
As well as this, Solidarity TD Mick Barry will be raising the issue in the Dāil today urging his colleagues to consider including the loss of 2,000 Debenhams jobs nationally, in the Programme for Government negotiations.
Outlining the thoughts and feelings of the workers, Ms Conlon said that the workers believe that approximately half the stores are profitable and the online business is still active.
Speaking on behalf of the protesting workers’ Ms Conlon, who used to work at Patrick Street, said: “Covid-19 is leading to massive redundancies everywhere. Debenhams is a test case for how these are handled. We believe the government must act to stop a jobs massacre in the retail sector. With government investment, profitable stores could return to trading as soon as restrictions are lifted in June.”
The workers want to meet Party leaders to discuss the possibility of bailing out the company, similar to bailing out the banks following the banking crisis in 2008.
Ms Conlon said the alternative to saving the company is a huge welfare bill as 2,000 workers will sign up for Jobseekers Benefit.
“We are calling on Government to act urgently before the consultation period with the liquidator ends on May 17.”
Valerie outlined a number of initiatives that could be used to assist in the situation, including the €6.5 billion fund for businesses announced over the weekend.
“Debenhams is a major workforce and merits investment. The EU has established a €100 billion fund called SURE to prevent redundancies (Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency). The Irish government could apply for this or other EU funding to save 2,000 jobs.”
Ms Conlon said there was some anger and fear among the Debenhams employees about the way they had been treated by the company and also about the future.
“Some of us, myself included, are a bit old to be thinking about retraining and learning new skills, but in saying that, if that is what we have to do, then that is what we have to do.”