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Deise 5: Michelle Gavin (27 years in Debenhams), Margaret Sinnott (15 years in Debenhams), Noleen McCarthy (18 years in Debenhams), Stephen Troy (6 years in Debenhams) and Michelle Byrne (Unite the Union activist in support)
Deise 5: Michelle Gavin (27 years in Debenhams), Margaret Sinnott (15 years in Debenhams), Noleen McCarthy (18 years in Debenhams), Stephen Troy (6 years in Debenhams) and Michelle Byrne (Unite the Union activist in support)
Image: Michelle Gavin

'We want action not words': Ex-Debenhams workers end five-day occupation of Waterford store

The ex-workers said they would continue to defend the stock and are turning their attention to KPMG.
Oct 2nd 2020, 4:09 PM 14,188 29

FORMER EMPLOYEES OF Debenhams Ireland have ended a five-day occupation of the now-closed store at City Square Shopping Centre in Waterford City this afternoon. 

The ex-workers left the store, on what is their 176th day of strike action, joining picketers on Lady’s Lane, vowing that stock will not leave the store until a just settlement is put in place for the workers.

The five workers who had been occupying the store since Monday were calling for talks between liquidators KPMG and Debenhams and their representatives to discuss how online business could be used for their agreed redundancy package.

The ‘Deise 5′ emerged today following meetings with Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler and Green Party TD Marc O Cathasaigh. The ex-workers said they demanded that the two Waterford deputies use their influence with Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan to ensure talks are arranged that could facilitate paying the workers’ demand for four weeks redundancy per year of service from sale of the stock or by the State stepping aside and allowing the monies owed to it as a creditor by the liquidator be used to meet the workers’ demands. 

“We are sick and tired of words from Government politicians. We want action not words. We want real talks which can deliver a fair deal for the Debenhams workers. If Mary Butler and Marc O Cathasaigh can’t deliver that now for the Debenhams workers then I think a lot of people in Waterford will question what value, if any, they have as public representatives for working people in the city,” Michelle Gavin, shop steward for the Waterford store said.

We raised the campaign to heights we never imagined would be possible. We have reinvigorated spirits on the picket line and we have built even more support for the campaign which we will continue to fight – whether we’re inside the canteen or outside on the picket line of the store.

One of the occupiers, Mags Sinnott, an occupier, said they are more determined than ever to secure a just settlement.

“We’re leaving that canteen and this building to step up our fight. We feel we achieved as much as we can from the inside this time so we will now rejoin the picket lines to continue our fight to defend the stock which is our leverage.”

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.

Leaving the Waterford store today, they said their strength lies back on the picket lines as “it is clear that is where KPMG is going to target next”.

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Former staff said an offer made by KPMG – understood to be in the region of €1 million split between staff – which they described as was “insulting”.  They were later informed on Wednesday that KPMG had declined an offer to re-enter talks with Mandate trade union officials. 

In recent weeks packers were sent to a number of stores to collect left-over stock which can continue to be sold online. Workers today said they have seen the liquidators “escalate their attempts to remove stock from other stores” in the last number of days.

They have called on people not to apply for packer jobs and not to cross their picket to do the work.

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Adam Daly

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