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BACKING: A protest by former Debenhams workers and their supporters
BACKING: A protest by former Debenhams workers and their supporters
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

My protest song in support of the Cork workers at Debenhams

DURING the lockdown, when I was feeling useless as I’d lost all my gigs and felt powerless to fight back as the Covid restrictions had impaired our regular activism with People Before Profit, one news story shook me out of my stupor.

I remember reading how the Debenhams workers who had just been sacked raised €17,000 for the former Debenhams factory workers in Bangladesh.

Considering the wellbeing of their fellow Bangladeshi workers ahead of their own was an act of solidarity that really impressed me.

Once a seed of solidarity is planted, it replicates and grows and their selfless act humbled me into action.

Can you imagine if your first thought after losing your job without a satisfactory redundancy was to think of people on the other side of the world? They knew the Bangladeshi workers had no access to social welfare and they knew they needed help.

I was curious to meet the type of people that would help others without even knowing them.

Of course, their generous gesture matched their character and I enjoyed spending time on the picket line with a group whose bonds were so strong after years of service together. But also, their tenacity, strength, and determination were apparent as they stood their ground not only for each other but for every worker who may find themselves in a similar situation when their employer uses the pandemic as an excuse to cut and run.

 Cork musician Gary Baus.

Cork musician Gary Baus.

It felt good to be active politically again, but as the picket dragged on, it occurred to me that perhaps I could help them even more musically.

We’d been chatting about Bruce Springsteen’s music and his proud public support for labour movements when I recalled his famous cover of Pay Me My Money Down. Soon after listening to it we started improvising our own rhymes about the Debenhams situation.

I sat down on the kerb and started jotting it down. I said: “Hey I think we’ve got the beginnings of something here. I’ll work on it and maybe we can perform it at the next protest on Patrick Street. Let’s record it too and then tweet it at Bruce!”

After a while, the lyrics were done (see below) but it was then I knew I had to do the one thing we often feel most reluctant to do: ask for help.

I sent out word to the music community of Cork and without hesitation everyone replied enthusiastically. We had singers, guitarists, banjo, trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, and even tuba!

One act of solidarity had led to another. As we performed the song outside Debenhams, the kindness and support from the public, the workers, and the musicians was truly moving.

It’s powerful to witness and it stands in stark contrast to the attitude of the corporations that we fight against.

They’re only asking for what they deserve and I hope they win because it couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of people. After 161 days, their strike became the longest running industrial dispute in Irish history.

Indeed, this is a historic movement for Irish workers to demonstrate their strength against corporations.

If the workers lose, we all lose. But their victory will be a victory for workers everywhere.

Either way, their fightback and effort will be an inspiration to all workers for a long time to come.

KPMG, Pay Our Redundancy

Written by Gary Baus and The Debenhams Workers

[Verse 1]

Everybody gather round

Let me tell ya what’s goin down

The workers here all got the sack

But watch out they’re fighting back

[Chorus]

KP MG

Pay our redundancy

Pay up oh don’t you see?

It’s right for you and me

Pay the workers and treat them fair

or this stock ain’t goin’ nowhere

Pay the workers and treat them fair

or this stock ain’t goin’ nowhere

[Verse 2]

Listen now to what we say

We’re on strike for our pay

We won’t just go away

Picket Pals are here to stay

You can’t stop us from blocking the vans

We’re gonna do everything we can

We know it’s right, and we know it’s just

Don’t blame us because you went bust

[Verse 3]

My feet are tired and my back is sore

But I know what we’re fightin’ for

Gonna stand on the picket line

Till I get what’s rightfully mine

The people of Cork send their support

They say implement the Duffy Cahill report

Join us now and give us a hand

Sing along to what we demand

[Verse 4]

Your standing here gives us hope

And we wrote this song to help you cope

To send a message to the big boss man

So this’ll never ever happen again

[Chorus]

KP MG

Pay our redundancy

Pay up, oh don’t you see?

It’s right for you and me

Pay the workers and treat them fair

or this stock ain’t goin’ nowhere

Pay the workers and treat them fair

or this stock ain’t goin’ nowhere