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'We were there almost 37 years... it was like a family bereavement': Clerys workers speak out after deal reached

A deal was reached this week which will see the old building redeveloped.
Mar 22nd 2017, 6:00 AM 8,802 8

A SETTLEMENT WHICH will see the multi-million euro redevelopment of Clerys on O’Connell Street is set to go ahead after a deal was reached with former workers and the company that owns the building.

Siptu trade union announced yesterday that a deal had been reached with company Natrium to allow for the development to go ahead.

The agreement was billed as “a good news story”, bringing to a close as it did almost two years of a protracted dispute between the former workers and the iconic store and its owners.

About 130 direct employees and another 330 who worked in concessions lost their jobs without warning when Clerys stopped trading without warning in June, 2015.

The subsequent liquidation has become infamous due to the cold treatment of the staff, many of whom had worked at the store for decades.

The Justice for the Clerys Workers Campaign spearheaded a resistance to the ill-treatment of staff. Yesterday, all sides seemed happy as a deal to allow Clerys to be re-developed was announced

The deal includes a “significant” goodwill payment to former workers, as well as a provision which will see them given consideration for future jobs in the new development.

TheJournal.ie spoke to two former workers at the Mansion House yesterday about their feelings on the deal reached and how they felt about Clerys closing in 2015.

Sean Clifford (50s) – Worked at Clerys for 37 years

IMG_20170321_111251 Sean Clifford said he was happy with the deal reached.

For former Clerys department manager Sean Clifford, the closure of the store in 2015 came as a huge blow.

“It was very disappointing,” he said.

We were there almost 37 years and the way I describe it is like a family bereavement, really. We just had to adjust.

Clifford said that he had undertaken a number of training courses in order to upskill following the closure.

In relation to the deal reached, Clifford said the issue wasn’t about money, but rather ensuring that the workers were respected.

“I don’t think this was about money.

I think it was about closure and the fact that because there was a goodwill settlement in it that respect was given to the workers – it was more about a respect situation rather than a monetary situation.

He said he was feeling positive about the future, and would be proud to see the Clerys building reopen as a high-end retail store.

“I’m delighted that people have got the respect that they deserve and I think for all concerned it’s a good news day,” he said.

I would feel great pride in seeing Clerys up to the level of Brown Thomas or something like that. That they wouldn’t be seen as second best to them.

Jimmy O’Byrne (65) – Worked at Clerys for 37 years

IMG_20170321_111652 Jimmy O'Byrne said he held no ill will to the company.

Security worker Jimmy O’Byrne was at home watching the six o’clock news when he first learned that Clery was closing down.

“Oh my god I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

I rang up my friends in Clerys and they were saying ‘yes, it is true’. Everyone is being marched out – just couldn’t believe it.

O’Byrne said that he was lucky that he only had a few years left until he retired, but for other workers it has much harder.

“The jobs were gone then. Gone, gone,” he said.

“It was a wrench really. And the worst aspect of it was going into town, seeing the building there empty. Not able to go in and talk to your friends,” he said.

That was the worst aspect – it was just Clerys was finito – that was the end and you couldn’t even go in and talk to your former colleagues.

He said the group of former workers has kep it=n regular contact since the closure, and he feels positive about the deal reached.

“The good thing about it was we kept together as a group,” he said.

We meet nearly every first Friday in the month and we have good Christmas parties still so we’re staying a family.

Asked whether he held any resentment towards Natrium or the closing of the story, Jimmy said:

I don’t, really. You have to move on. You could be buried in spite but you just have to move on.

Read: Clerys workers are going to get a settlement, almost two years after the department store shut down

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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