By James Ward, PA
Workers should be at the “top of the queue” when it comes to payouts from liquidated companies, a TD has said.
Unpaid redundancies will form part of a liquidated companies debt under a new Bill seeking better terms for workers by People Before Profit TD, Mick Barry.
The Companies (Protection of Employees’ Rights in Liquidations) Bill 2021 is set to go before the Dáil on Wednesday.
It comes amid reports that gardaí have again broken up strikes by Debenhams workers, who continue to protest for better settlement terms over a year since the store closed its Irish outlets.
Mr Barry said: “Never again should a group of workers have to fight a battle like this, in order to achieve a basic decent redundancy settlement.”
He said his Bill would change the law in two ways.
“Number one, it seeks to put workers at the very top of the queue when it comes to payout from a liquidator’s pot.
“Number two, it would make an unpaid collective agreement, such as unpaid collective redundancy agreement, into a debt in the eyes of the liquidation laws.”
Mr Barry said that his Bill would strengthen workers’ rights and had the backing of opposition parties.
He added: “Many, many times, Debenhams workers have listened to Dáil speeches from the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, where they talk about their hearts going out to them, their hands are tied because of the law.
“Well, here’s a chance to untie the hands, here’s a chance to change the law, and people will be watching the votes very, very closely in that regard.”
Mr Barry also criticised the presence of gardaí at the Debenhams strikes.
He claimed 40 gardaí and six police vans were used to break up a strike at the Debenhams store in Waterford on Monday night.
40 Gardai with 6 police vans used early this morning to remove striking Debenhams workers from their picket line in Waterford. The Garda action followed a 5 hour standoff with scab trucks trying to remove disputed stock. #PassDebenhamsBill #PutWorkersFirst @MichealLehane
— Mick Barry TD (@MickBarryTD) May 11, 2021
He said: “In my opinion, Gardai should be prevented from being involved in industrial disputes.
“The industrial dispute should be between the workers and their employer, or in this case a liquidator, without the involvement of the State and without the involvement of the Gardai.”
Gardaí confirmed they attended a premises in Waterford “as required in the execution of a High Court Order on the night of the May 10 2021.”
A spokesperson said they had no further comment to make at this time.