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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 24 January, 2019
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'I gave 45 years to the store': After 11 weeks, former Clerys staff aren't going away

400 people lost their jobs overnight when the store closed suddenly.

File Photo The liquidation of Clerys department store in Dublin is set to cost the taxpayer 2.5 million euro, according to the latest estimate from the Department of Social Protection. The Department's Social Insurance Fund will have to pay all outstandin Source: Sam Boal

“I WORKED THERE for 45 years, and this is how they treat us?”

That is the question asked by John Finn, one of the Clerys workers who stood outside the offices of Natrium Consortium, the new owners of the former department store, this lunchtime.

Standing on the North Wall Quay in Dublin the former staff members shouted:

The workers united will never be defeated.

It’s been 11 weeks since they lost their jobs, but they aren’t giving up without a fight, they said.

The store closed suddenly in June, resulting in more than 400 people losing their jobs.

This included employees of Clerys as well as concession holders. Many of the workers had been working at the department store for decades.

Following the purchase of the store, Natrium immediately moved to liquidate its operating company. Overnight, the workers say their lives changed forever.

“I was due to retire in 2017. I gave 45 years to the company and I was there since the Guiney days,” said Finn.

IMG_1166 (Right) John Finn at today's Clerys protest in Dublin. Source: Christina Finn

“I knew I was going to retire next year, but I never expected to be pushed into it early like this. These people are a great bunch to work with and the way we have been treated has been disgraceful. I worked there a long time, but it is the other workers, the ones with mortgages and young families that I worry for,” he said.

Today’s protest was organised by the trade union Siptu, who is critical of the liquidation being carried out without any discussions with the Clerys workers.

The trade union said no plans for the payment of workers’ outstanding wages or redundancy entitlements were communicated to them.

IMG_1163 Former Clerys workers outside the offices of the new owners Natrium Consortium. Source: Christina Finn

Nuala Noone, originally from Galway, has lived in Dublin ever since she got her job in Clerys 43 years ago.

She worked in the office doing administrative work. Noone said she received no communication about what was happening to the company or her job.

That’s why we’re here today.

“The way we have been treated has really hit home to people, I think. Clerys was an iconic store, everyone up and down the country knew about it. Then all of a sudden it’s gone.”

Source: Video TheJournal.ie/YouTube

You knew everyone, all ages worked there, everyone was friendly, it was a great place to work. It is such a downer from being in there everyday to nothing.

Veronica Newport, who worked in the store 15 years, said it was “Ireland’s heritage store”.

I loved working there, I loved the people, the customers, it was my bread and butter, for me and a lot of other people.

IMG_1169 (Left) Veronica Newport, (Right) Nuala Noone at today's Clerys protest in Dublin. Source: Christina Finn

She told TheJournal.ie that if the company had have been open and honest with the workers, then they could somewhat understand.

“It was the way it was done. It was there one day and gone the next. It is no way to treat workers in this day and age.”

Clerys’ Santa Claus 

A man who donned the red suit every Christmas for the festive shoppers said the whole thing is a “disgrace”.

“Clerys was unlike any other store. I played Santa Claus for 4 years in the store, and I really enjoyed it. It was a great place to work. These people here today are absolutely lovely people, and no one deserves to be treated the way they have been treated,2 said Sean Whelan.

When the day comes that Natrium reopens the store, I want to see pickets outside, day in, day out, until people are paid every cent they are owed.

File Photo The liquidation of Clerys department store in Dublin is set to cost the taxpayer 2.5 million euro, according to the latest estimate from the Department of Social Protection. The Department's Social Insurance Fund will have to pay all outstandin Source: Sam Boal

The latest estimate for the cost of liquidation from the Department of Social Protection shows it is set to cost the taxpayer €2.5 million.

The Department’s Social Insurance Fund will have to pay out all the outstanding statutory redundancy payments for the workers.

“It is the taxpayer that is paying out €2.5 million to sort out this mess. When the store opens we need to be outside until all of that money is repaid,” said Whelan.

Speaking at a jobs announcement today, the junior social protection minister Kevin Humphreys said he was “extremely angry” that the taxpayer had been left to foot the bill for the job losses.

He said his department would be working to ensure that those whose lost their jobs can get back into employment.

Meanwhile, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said he was unhappy with the situation but described it as an “isolated incident”.

He added: “But this [had] an appalling impact on the workers and something we need to learn lessons from.”

- First published at 11.45am. Additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell 

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