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Dublin: 17 °C Friday 7 August, 2020
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'After decades in Clerys, they wouldn't even let us take our things from the lockers'

Former Clerys workers struck a defiant tone at yesterday’s protest against job losses.

Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall

GERRY MARKEY HAD worked in Clerys for 34 years when he was laid off on Friday.

At 5pm that day, he was told along with hundreds of other workers that the store would be closing down in half an hour.

An hour later, he said, they were informed that their jobs were gone. “At least 20 security people were brought in to make sure everybody did exit the building and didn’t come back in.”

‘They wouldn’t treat dogs that badly’

John Crowe, a Clerys worker for 43 years, only found out he had lost his job when he reported for work on Monday.

I basically live on my own. I got up [on Monday] morning and got dressed at 5 o’clock thinking I was going to work until I realised when I got to the door that the job was gone. So I came into town and just passed the time away and was just bored stiff – my head was just gone. It’s going to be hard.

Staff, he said, had not even been allowed to collect their belongings from lockers in the store on the day it closed.

We were treated disgracefully. They wouldn’t treat dogs that badly.

IMG_0524 John Crowe with Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke at yesterday's Clerys rally Source: Catherine Healy/TheJournal.ie

He said Boston-based Gordon Brothers, which sold the 150-year-old store last week, had changed its attitude towards Clerys workers in the two and a half years since it bought the business. It “built it up, made money and left.”

When they came in first, Malcolm [MacAulay, chief operating officer of Gordon Brothers Europe] loved us all. He knew us by our names. Every morning it was, ‘Good morning, John’, ‘Good morning, this’.  In the last year, he never said good morning.

Now 62, Crowe told TheJournal.ie that he can’t see himself being able to get another job.

‘This badge means something’

Susie Gaynor McGowan, who worked in the ladies’ fashion department for 11 years, found out that she had lost her job over social media.

Susie Gaynor McGowan Source: Catherine Healy/TheJournal.ie

She said she wore her purple Clerys badge to yesterday’s protest in a symbolic act.

This badge means something to us. We had pride in our jobs. We went in every day to give our customers the best service we could.

Complete shock

Alan O’Brien, who worked in Clerys for 30 years, said the store’s closure came as “a complete shock”.

We’d like to let Deirdre Foley [a director of Natrium, Clerys' new owner] know that we will make it as awkward as possible for her to do what she wishes to do with the building.

unnamed (3) Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

SIPTU members were assured during a meeting with KPMG yesterday that the wages they are owed would be paid by the government’s insolvency and social insurance funds.

Compensation, however, will be limited to two weeks of pay for every year of service, subject to a maximum earnings cap of €600 per week.

Gordon Brothers sold Clerys to the Natrium consortium, which is made up of Irish investors D2 Private and UK-based Cheyne Capital Management, last week.

The firm that ran the store was immediately put into liquidation, but the separate company under which the property is owned is still in operation – enabling the buyers to exploit its lucrative site for profit.

The business lost €4.3 million since it was put into receivership in 2012.

The job losses include about 130 people directly employed in the department store and another 330 who worked for the 50 concession holders operating in the building.

Read: Hundreds turn out for angry protest against Clerys job losses >

Read:  These are the people behind the deal that means time’s up for Clerys >

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About the author:

Catherine Healy

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