Deferral of 'Debenhams Bill' is 'soul destroying' says former Cork employee

Deferral of 'Debenhams Bill' is 'soul destroying' says former Cork employee

Two of the ex-Debenhams workers Madeline Whelan, activist, (left) and Valerie Conlon, shop steward, outside the former Debenhams store on St. Patrick's St., Cork.

A BILL that seeks to improve workers’ rights in the event of liquidation has been deferred for one year in what former Debenhams workers in Cork have described as “another kick in the face”.

The Companies (Protection of Employees' Rights In Liquidations) Bill 2021, nicknamed, The Debenhams Bill was debated and voted on in the Dáil on Wednesday.

The Dáil voted 73-62 to defer the Bill, which was proposed by Solidarity TD Mick Barry, for 12 months.

It comes as former Debenhams workers mark 400 days of protests on Friday.

Former Debenhams employee Madeline Whelan said that they are “devastated” by the decision to defer the Bill.

“It’s just another kick in the face for us really,” she said.

“We said from day one, it’s our fight today but it’s someone else’s tomorrow. We weren’t the first and we won’t be the last,” she added.

Shop steward Valerie Conlon said that their 400-day struggle has been for legislation in addition to their redundancy.

“We’ve been on a 400-day strike in the hopes that legislation would be brought in as well as redundancy. We’re not getting the redundancy, so we would like to think that before all of this finishes for us that the legislation would be brought in.” 

Four of the ex-Debenhams workers (from left) Madeline Whelan, activist; Dolores Mulcahy, Valerie Conlon, shop steward, and Annette McSweeney outside the former Debenhams store on St. Patrick's St., Cork.
Four of the ex-Debenhams workers (from left) Madeline Whelan, activist; Dolores Mulcahy, Valerie Conlon, shop steward, and Annette McSweeney outside the former Debenhams store on St. Patrick's St., Cork.

She said that they were told legislation would be brought in by Autumn 2020.

“It’s soul-destroying. Absolutely soul-destroying.” 

Ms Whelan and Ms Conlon said that it only a matter of time before the stock is removed from the Patricks Street store.

Speaking after the result, Mick Barry TD said the Government voted for “a cynical, timewasting exercise” on Wednesday night.

“They don’t need another year to do right by workers in liquidation situations. They have had ten years to get their act together on this. Ten years since the Vita Cortex dispute in Cork.” 

He added that there is a "massive wave" of redundancies pending once Covid supports cease, stating that “there needs to be proper protections for all the workers, and they need to be put in place as a matter of urgency”.

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