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Shop steward Jane Crowe outside KPMG today. Sasko Lazarov/PA Images

Former Debenhams staff protest at KPMG as packers move in at a number of stores

Workers remain defiant as their protests continued for a 166th day today.

FORMER DEBENHAMS WORKERS protested outside KPMG offices earlier today, as their efforts go on to secure improved redundancy terms after 1,000 workers lost their jobs when the retailer went into liquidation earlier this year. 

The latest protests today came as packers were sent to a number of stores today to try to pack up stock. 

Speaking to the this evening, shop steward for the Dublin store on Henry Street Jane Crowe said staff were “very disheartened” to see packers go in but said staff were unwavering in their bid for better terms. 

Workers from around the country have been protesting since April in a dispute over redundancy terms after 1,000 workers lost their jobs when the chain went into liquidation.

The company had four stores in Dublin, two in Cork and others in Galway, Limerick, Newbridge, Tralee and Waterford. Some Irish workers had almost 30 years’ service at Debenhams.

Former staff have said that the offer made by liquidators KPMG  – understood to be in the region of €1 million split between staff – is “insulting”. 

The protests have involved sit ins on the former shop premises, and led to the arrest of six protesters in Dublin earlier this month. KPMG has since withdrawn its offer.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin earlier this month also urged all sides involved in the Debenhams dispute to get back around the table to hammer out a better deal for former workers.

The Taoiseach described the treatment of striking Debenhams staff as “shabby, shoddy and unacceptable”.

This evening, Crowe said that “tea and sympathy” wasn’t much help to workers now protesting for their 166th day. 

She said workers and the Mandate union were urging KPMG to return to negotiations. KPMG has previously warned that the blockade of stock removal is slowing the liquidation process.

“€1 million between 1,000 workers works out as very little,” she said. “And it’s done pro rata so some workers come out with a tiny amount.

“The packers were out today in a number of stores. You can only ask them not to pass the picket. But there’s no way the stock is coming out.”

Workers believe the value of the stock in these shops should be going towards their redundancy payment. Unions have also called for urgent legislation to help employees who find themselves in circumstances such as those faced by the former Debenhams workers.

“We don’t anyone to go through the same thing as us,” Crowe said. “It’s been 166 days so you can get a bad day but whoever’s on the shift with you can bring you up. They pull you up again. We’re a family here and we’re not giving up.”

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