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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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Watch: Locks changed in Clerys as shocked workers told all the jobs are gone

Liquidators were appointed to the company.

Updated at 9.43pm
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WORKERS AT CLERYS have left the iconic Dublin department store this evening after being told that all the jobs are to be lost.

A group of workers remained in the nearly 200-year-old store for a number of hours after they were informed of the store’s liquidation but have now left. Several were in tears as they did so.

Provisional liquidators were appointed to the company that operated the store following a High Court hearing this evening. The appointments were sought after the group was sold to Natrium Ltd earlier in the day.

The company employs 130 people.

While approximately another 330 are employed by the 50 concession holders, who sold their wares in the department store.

Staff leaving the store this evening told TheJournal.ie that they were called to a meeting this evening expecting  information about the sale. Instead, they were told that their jobs were to be lost and that they were entitled to statutory redundant.

“We were told at 1:30 that it’s being sold and a notice was put on the back door,” according to Yvonne Murphy who’s worked at Clerys for 12 years.

We were told at 5 o’clock that the store was closing at 5:30 and that customers had to leave. Then the meeting was called for six and we were told that it’s being liquidated and we are only entitled to our statutory pay.

“We came into work today and you don’t expect it,” she added.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan earlier appointed insolvency practitioners Eamon Richardson and Kieran Wallace of KPMG as joint provisional liquidators of OCS Operations Ltd, which has operated Clerys Department Store and Warehouse since 2012.

The company, which petitioned the court for the liquidators appointment, told the court it must immediately cease trading and close down to prevent any further debts arising.

Also leaving the store before 9pm this evening after a brief sit-in was Margaret O’Dea, an employee of 45 years next month.

“We were just told that it’s been boarded up and going into what’s it called, insolvency? I couldn’t think of the word, I’m so shocked I can’t think of anything.”

“I knew when we were having the meeting it was strange but I didn’t know anything else. I was shocked, I was bawling crying to be honest with you. I’m still shocked. So we’ll just wait and see.”

“It only last half-an-hour (the meeting) they didn’t tell us anything really they just gave us something to read which I haven’t read yet, I still have to read. It just says the companies insolvent.”

Before the staff left the store, liquidators were also understood to be inside alongside security staff.

The security staff present were not the regular Clerys security according to Siptu’s Teresa Hannick who was outside the store this evening.

Locks were also changed at the store as staff were leaving.

‘Difficult trading’

The High Court had heard the company is unlikely to have sufficient monies to make upcoming payments, including ones due early next week, and is unable to pay its debts.

The liquidators would be best placed to preserve the value of the business, deal with employees, the concession holders and creditors, the company said.

The company employs 130 people.

While approximately another 330 are employed by the 50 concession holders, who sold their wares in the department store.

Officials with workers’ union Siptu is seeking an urgent meeting with the new owner.

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Speaking outside the store this evening, Siptu’s Hannick said that they knew Clerys was “going through difficult trading, but we didn’t think it was going to be as serious as this.”

She added that Siptu will be “looking for the best deal we can for our members.”

She noted, however, that in the case of a liquidation staff are only entitled to statutory redundancy.

Hannick made reference to the closure of the store back in 2013, when it was closed due to flood damage, and described the work the staff put it to get it back open.

“Our members would have taken on extra work, they would have gone with, I think it was about six weeks without pay, or unpaid leave. They all came up, they loaded all the stock they could from Ballycoolan back in here to keep it going, and this is how they’re being treated.”

Wound up

In the High Court, the judge granted the liquidators powers allowing them take possession of the company’s assets, books and records, retain or dismiss staff, make payments to creditors, and carry on the business of the company pending the hearing of the petition to have the company wound up.

Clerys Shop Reopens Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

The High Court heard that following the sale Natrium removed OCS Operations from the Group and transferred the shares in the company (Operations) to insolvency practioner Jim Brydie, Kingsmere Road, London for €1.

At the High Court yesterday Kelley Smith Bl for OCS Operations said arising out of the examination the company had no alternative other than to seek the appointment of a liquidators.

Counsel said since 2012 OCS Operations had traded at a loss and was now balance sheet insolvent.  Counsel said between August 2012 and January 2015 the company has lost €4.3m.

Counsel said while the loans are not repayable until September 2016 a change in the shareholder, as has occurred, means a demand for  the loans facilities to be repaid can be made.

Counsel added that financial projections showed a cash flow deficiency in August.  OCS Operations would require further funding from the group parent OCS Investment Holdings. That firm indicated it would no longer provide any further financial support to the company.

After appointing the provisional liquidators the judge adjourned the matter to a date in early July.

Clerys Department StoresSource: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland
What plans Natrium have for the site are not yet clear.

Additional reporting by Aodhan O’Faolain,  Cianan Brennan,  and Nicky Ryan.

Read: Bread company Irish Pride has gone into receivership

Read: Shoppers evacuated from Clerys department store after reports of smoke

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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