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Striking Debenhams workers 'shocked' at recommendation for €3m training fund

Former staff with the company have been protesting since April.

The former Debenhams store on Henry Street in Dublin
The former Debenhams store on Henry Street in Dublin
Image: PA Images

SHOP STEWARDS REPRESENTING former Debenhams workers have said they are “shocked” and “deeply disappointed” at proposals from Labour Court Chairman Kevin Foley to resolve a months-long dispute over redundancy payments.

A recommendation by Foley would see €3 million provided to workers who lost their jobs this year as part of a fund for training, education, career guidance and business startups.

It follows engagement between the workers’ trade union Mandate, Debenhams’ liquidators KPMG, and Government creditors including the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

Former staff with the company have been protesting since April, when the chain went into liquidation and 1,000 workers lost their jobs. 

Workers had sought enhanced redundancy payments of four weeks’ pay per year of service, instead of the statutory two weeks’ pay.

However, a statement from the workers last night said that Foley’s proposals had “torn up” this demand and that it did not fairly settle the dispute.

“We are disappointed in that we believed this process was aimed at delivering additional redundancy to the workers through the sale of the stock which remains in the stores,” a spokesperson for the Debenhams shop stewards said.

“Despite engaging in discussions to that effect we are now being told that the proceeds of the sale of the stock cannot be used to meet our demands.”

The shop stewards described as ”insulting” that the workers’ demands could be met by a fund for training and career guidance, saying that many Debenhams workers had already begun training and further education, while many others were near the age of retirement.

They called on the Government to make the €3 million ring-fenced for re-training available to Debenhams workers as additional redundancy payments, adding that the proposals would be discussed further today.

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Cork-based Solidarity TD Mick Barry said that the Labour Court’s recommendation had “let the workers down badly”.

“The workers have not had their redundancy pay topped up by a single cent,” he said.

“The result is that workers who have struggled for justice through 251 days of a pandemic have been presented with a truly shameful offer now, just a week before Christmas.”

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