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Arcadia Group's Irish workers only found about company's difficulties through the media, says trade union

But Irish staff members will be asked to show up for work as normal over the coming weeks.

Image: Sasko Lazarov

IRISH RETAIL WORKERS at Arcadia Group-owned outlets found out about their company’s financial difficulties through the media, according to the trade union that represents them.

Arcadia — the British retail giant that owns the Topman, Topshop, Wallis, Evans and Ms Selfridges chains — had provisional liquidators appointed to four of its Irish companies yesterday.

It followed the collapse of its UK parent into administration, throwing the future of 13,000 jobs across the two islands into jeopardy.

Yesterday, the High Court appointed Ken Fennell and James Anderson of Deloitte as provisional liquidators to four Irish companies within the group — Arcadia Group Multiples Ireland Ltd, Topshop/Topman Ireland Ltd, Wallis Retail Ireland and Miss Selfridge Retail Ireland.

The court heard that the companies are insolvent and unable to pay their debts.

Fennell and Anderson’s appointment comes after days of speculation about the future of the business following reports in the UK that Arcadia was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Jonathan Hogan is a national co-ordinator with trade union Mandate, which represents half of the Arcadia workers.

Speaking today, he commended Fennell and Anderson for their swift communication with the union and its members.

Representatives of Deloitte this morning met with workers this morning to inform them of the latest developments, Hogan said.

But he heavily criticised Arcadia, owned by British businessman Philip Green, for letting workers find out about the situation through news reports.

“Originally, the workers and union found out about this through media speculation and then the company last Friday issued a statement to their colleagues. We got a copy of that. Since then [the company] hasn’t confirmed anything. Everything has been confirmed through the media,” he said.

It really is just a horrendous way in which the workers found out… it’s no way for a business like that to communicate with workers.

Asked if he was concerned that the situation could deteriorate into a protracted dispute akin to the row over the liquidation of Debenhams’ Irish business, Hogan said, “it’s probably too early to say.

“But we’re hoping it’s not going to be and the first indications from my conversations with Deloitte are that they’re committed to an open and transparent process. We’d be hopeful that we can work through this process.”

Staff numbers

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There is some confusion about how exactly how many workers Arcadia employs in Ireland.

The High Court heard yesterday that some 487 employees could be affected at 13 stores. Mandate believes the figure could be as high as 800 or 900 when workers at Arcadia-owned concession stands are included.

“What we’re asking the company to do now is to confirm overall numbers in relation to the concession workers. So it might be the case that it’s 487 Arcadia workers across all locations including concession stands as well.

“But we don’t know that so we’re trying to establish that with the company as well. We’re seeking those clarifications. So that’s where we’re at,” he said.

Fennell and Anderson will operate the Irish businesses throughout the Christmas period in the hopes of finding a buyer for Arcadia’s Irish concerns as part of an overall sale of the group and saving the affected jobs.

Hogan said that workers are now being asked to “demonstrate their professionalism and goodwill” over the next few weeks by continuing to show up to work as normal.

“We hope that their goodwill will be repaid through the protection of their jobs,” he said.

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