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Up In Smoke

Clerys worker put down €600 deposit for furniture - hours before store's shock closure

Tánaiste Joan Burton has said that Clerys workers “have been treated very badly”.

Updated 20.00 pm

A CLERYS STAFF member paid €600 to the store as a deposit for a suite of furniture last Friday morning – hours before the landmark store’s shock closure, with the loss of almost 500 jobs.

The Consumers Association of Ireland has warned that there’s no legislation to protect customers in such cases – and called on liquidators KPMG to treat people who have paid deposits for goods as priority creditors.

SIPTU organiser Teresa Hannick, who spoke to the woman who had put down the furniture deposit, said many staff members would be in a similar position. It would be common for staff members to put down deposits on items and make payments from their wages, she said.

The only chance they’d have of getting something back would be if you paid by credit card. It looks like it’s gone, if you paid by cash.

Workers who are paid fortnightly got their latest wages payment on Friday morning, she said. Those that receive monthly payments received their last pay-packs at the end of May.

“It’s sad for everybody involved but it’s extremely difficult for consumers, who don’t have any rights in the case of a liquidation,” Dermot Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland told Newstalk.

Once a liquidation is put in place it’s because all efforts have failed, there’s no money left in the company, whatever money may be there goes to priority creditors which would be the bank, the Revenue.

Concerns have also been raised over the status of Clerys vouchers.

Jewell says that if you have one, it looks like that money’s essentially been lost.

We would ask the liquidator to see if it’s possible to put a priority creditor status on any consumers who either a) have put down deposits or b) that are holding what are potentially worthless credit notes.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste and Minster for Social Protection Joan Burton has said that Clerys staff have been treated “very badly” as her department confirmed that it will be providing staff with information on entitlements and job programmes.

“This is a very difficult time for the staff of Clerys who gave so much to the company and, frankly, have been treated very badly,” she said.

Officials from the Department of Social Protection will provide briefing sessions on welfare and employment supports to all 460 staff early this week at which they will get full information specific to their individual circumstances.

“The officials are there to help you get through this very difficult time and to guide you on what supports are there for you and what steps you need to take to get back into employment as quickly as possible,” added Minister of State Kevin Humphreys.

Retail Excellence Ireland said this afternoon that it understand that the circa 50 store concessions operating in Clerys are owed approximately six weeks of takings that should have been held ‘in trust’ and paid to them this morning.

“This money, was earned by store concessions operating within Clerys over the past six weeks. It does not belong to either Clerys or its buyers,” said David Fitzsimons REI Chief Executive.

Union reps at Clerys are also set to meet with Siptu officials this morning to discuss their next move – following a meeting of workers, and a protest outside the O’Connell Street store on Saturday afternoon.

Provisional liquidators were appointed to the company that operated the store following a High Court hearing on Friday.

The development was completely unexpected – and shocked workers were told on Friday evening that all the jobs were gone.

Junior Minister Ged Nash has called for the new owners of the store, Natrium Ltd, to “engage immediately” with the workers.

Hannick said they had also contacted liquidators KPMG and Nash, who has responsibility for collective bargaining, to ask for meetings.

Read: Watch: Locks changed in Clerys as shocked workers told all the jobs are gone

Read: What next for the Clerys workers?

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