Debenhams dispute comes to an end after 406 days

Debenhams dispute comes to an end after 406 days

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. Former Debenhams workers have voted to accept the offer of a €3 million training fund. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The longest-running industrial dispute in Irish history has come to an end after 406 days.

Former Debenhams workers have today voted to accept the offer of a €3 million training fund.

The majority of workers voted in favour of accepting the offer with 319 in favour and 102 against.

The training fund was originally offered in December following recommendations by mediator Kevin Foley, chair of the Labour Court.

The first ballot, which took place on January 13, was rejected as further clarifications were sought by Mandate trade union members on issues contained within the proposal including how the fund would be managed and worker access to the fund.

In a statement today Mandate said Government department officials from Solas provided “invaluable assistance” in this regard over recent weeks leading to today’s positive ballot result.

Debenhams shop stewards and picket line activists have said the acceptance of the settlement offer “does not mean that the vast majority of former Debenhams workers see it as coming anywhere close to the honouring of the four weeks’ pay per year’s service redundancy” nor was it an “adequate reward” for the struggle they have waged.

“Rather it is a reflection that the shop stewards and workers, in the majority, concluded that they had fought as hard as was possible and the moment was right to bring the industrial fight to a conclusion,” the statement continued.

Last September, the Debenhams dispute became the longest-running industrial dispute in Irish history, surpassing the Vita Cortex protest.

The workers at Vita Cortex in Ballyphehane ended their marathon sit-in protest on May 24, 2012 after the workers finally started receiving redundancy payments.

The dispute lasted more than five months.

Debenhams announced the end of its Irish operations last April with the loss of approximately 1,200 jobs.

More to follow.

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