Cork Debenhams staff to stage protest while social distancing

Cork Debenhams staff to stage protest while social distancing
Debenhams staff keep their social distance outside the premises on Patrick street, Cork. Included are from left, Sarah Gleeson, Marie Horgan, Chris Wall, Miriam Geaney, Valerie Condon, Mary Murphy, Madeline Whelan, Erica O’Mahony Julette Sheehan and Vivian O’Regan. Picture Dan Linehan

Staff from Debenhams on Patrick’s Street in Cork are set to stage a protest outside the store tomorrow, Tuesday, in a bid to ensure their plight to ensure they get a fair redundancy package isn’t forgotten about.

The protest will be kept to small numbers to ensure adequate social distancing, with just a couple of staff from each department attending. It’s set to take place from 11am to 12 noon.

Debenhams, St Patrick Street, Cork. Pic; Larry Cummins
Debenhams, St Patrick Street, Cork. Pic; Larry Cummins

Staff from the branch at Mahon Point shopping centre are also set to stage their own protest, while staff at four Debenhams stores in Dublin will also picket.

Valerie Conlon, one of the store’s Mandate trade union representatives, explained to The Echo why staff will be holding the protest: “We’re just reminding people to keep it out there, because things can disappear very quickly and we just want to keep it out there for as long as we can.” 

They have also informed the relevant authorities that the protest is taking place.

“We have informed the guards that we’re doing it. We wouldn’t do it underhand,” she said. “We’re wearing masks and gloves, and we have a few signs so we’re bringing spray with us to spray everything down.” 

It comes as there are around 18,000 signatures gathered in an online petition supporting the workers in getting a properly negotiated redundancy package for Irish staff.

Valerie said that Debenhams staff have been overwhelmed by the positive support from people: “I was sending the petition out to people and they were coming back saying brilliant, and that they’d sent it on to other people.

“To get support like that, it actually means an awful lot. It’s nice to think there’s people thinking of us,” she added.

The appointed liquidators spoke to Debenhams workers last Friday to explain the liquidation process after staff were informed by email more than a week previous that the 11 Irish Debenhams stores, including two in Cork, wouldn’t reopen after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staff, however, still haven’t been formally let go. “We didn’t get our notice that we’ve been laid off as such yet. The liquidators have to do that. It’s a given though, they’re not going to open the shops. They don’t have the money. England aren’t giving them the backing,” Valerie said.

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