'Personal items are being bagged up': Concerns as items could be removed from former staff lockers at Cork Debenhams store

'Personal items are being bagged up': Concerns as items could be removed from former staff lockers at Cork Debenhams store

Former Debenhams workers pictured last year on Day 149 of the official picket at Mahon Point.

FORMER Debenhams staff, locked in a long-running battle over redundancy, have expressed their concerns following reports that their personal belongings are to be removed from the Mahon Point store at some stage this week.

Carol Ann Bridgeman who is the shop steward for the store said she was alerted to this potential scenario last week. 

“We only learned about this development last Friday. The store is being cleared out, the keys are being handed over to the new tenants this week and the lockers are to be cleared out. All our personal items will be bagged up and labelled," she claimed.

The shop steward said this action is completely ‘immoral’ and shows no regard for their privacy. 

“We have been shown nothing but disrespect from the very start. 

"It was so stressful and dehumanising to find out last Friday that this process will happen someday this week.

“All the staff have personal and sensitive items in their locker. It is very disrespectful. We have no idea what they will do with our items after they bag them up. 

"As a shop steward, I would have a locker full of documents and information. We have been on to KPMG looking for access to our lockers but to no avail. It is so demoralising, but we will rally around and drive on,” she added.

Valerie Conlon, the Mandate Trade Union shop steward at the Patrick Street store said the first anniversary of the dispute is approaching on April 9. 

“There have been no new developments. We are still waiting. We will see how far more we can go. Removing our personal items is a disgrace. It is getting very dirty. We would have staff files in our lockers and it is totally wrong from a GDPR perspective,” she said.

Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central, Thomas Gould, said he is very concerned about this latest development. 

“I have written to the Minister for Justice and Garda Commissioner to raise my concerns about the reports around the use of Garda resources to assist KPMG in removing the worker’s personal belongings.

“The workers have asked a number of times to be allowed to access their belongings. These requests have been refused. There is a question now around the need for the gardaí, as has been reported, to become involved in a worker’s rights dispute and why the workers themselves are not allowed to remove their personal belongings,” he said.

Deputy Gould said the lack of ‘empathy’ towards the ex-Debenhams employees is appalling. “The way that KPMG and Debenhams have treated the workers is appalling. The lack of empathy and refusal to constructively engage with the workers is a disgrace. The government has stood by and let these workers be treated like this. This government has made clear that they are not on the side of ordinary working people,” he added.

The Echo has contacted KPMG for comment.

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