A CORK TD has described how the winding down of Debenhams stores in the UK could pave the way for a “retail jobs massacre.”
Solidarity TD Mick Barry was reacting to news that the company is to be wound down after JD Sports pulled out of talks relating to a rescue takeover, putting 12,000 UK jobs in danger.
Debenhams has said it will continue to trade to clear stock as administrators seek a buyer for either all or parts of the company.
The news comes just days after liquidators of Debenhams Ireland — KPMG — confirmed it had removed stock from three of its 11 stores across the country. Stock has been partially removed from various other stores despite ongoing pickets by former employees.
Former Debenhams workers recently met with Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the general secretary of Mandate trade union, Gerry Light as part of their long-running battle to secure fair redundancy payments.
Mr Barry warned that the struggle will continue for retailers both in Ireland and the UK. “The liquidation of Debenhams in the UK is a sure sign that a retail jobs massacre is underway,” he said.
The Cork TD said the struggle for justice of the Debenhams workers here in Ireland is “more important than ever now”.
Cork mandate shop steward, Valerie Conlon, said that UK Debenhams workers had reached out to them in support of their industrial action.
“This is very sad but while it’s unfortunate it’s also something that we did see happening,” she said.
“They were having problems since last April and that’s why the stores in Ireland were closed. We now stand in solidarity with those in the UK affected by what is happening. We realise how they must be feeling right now.
“All we can do is hope that they come out the other side a lot faster.”
Ms Conlon said it has been a long road for former Debenhams workers.
“Last week was particularly difficult because we should have been getting ready for Black Friday. It’s still very difficult for everyone involved.”
Speaking in response to news that KPMG removed stock from a Debenhams store on Henry street in Dublin, Cork North Central TD, Thomas Gould, questioned whether the liquidators are entering into negotiations in good faith.
“The most important thing, and at the core of this issue, is the workers,” he said.
“They have been on strike for over 230 days now. They deserve to be at home for Christmas with their families. The workers are willing to engage in these talks.
“They scaled back pickets in good faith and while KPMG may not have broken the letter of the agreement, they certainly broke the spirit of it.”
He emphasised the importance of finding a resolution and added:
“For the sake of the workers, the government now needs to intervene, condemn the actions of KPMG and make sure these workers are home for Christmas with a fair redundancy.”