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Mandate says Debenhams deal close after months of protests while liquidator says 'progress being made'

Debenhams workers have been protesting for a number of months for a fair redundancy settlement.

Debenhams workers protesting outside the store on Henry Street, Dublin in July
Debenhams workers protesting outside the store on Henry Street, Dublin in July
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

TRADE UNION MANDATE has confirmed it has negotiated a potential resolution to the Debenhams dispute as the workers near 150 days on strike following the liquidation of the company in April. 

Full details of the finalised deal will be made available to the workers early next week ahead of a national information meeting and subsequent ballot of Debenhams members. 

Mandate has said that the complex nature of a “very difficult” set of negotiations has resulted in a potential settlement offer.

This is expected to include a financial settlement offer, as well as guaranteed employment for a number of Debenhams staff as a new leaseholder takes control of a number of stores, the trade union said. 

The Debenhams workers have been protesting and campaigning across the country for a number of months for a fair redundancy settlement from their former employer.

Over 1,000 workers lost jobs across the country as a result of the closure of the Irish arm of the UK chain in April.

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.

Speaking of the potential deal, Mandate general Secretary Gerry Light said: “This deal was only made possible because of the resilience and determination of our Debenhams members who have stood on picket lines through hail, rain and even storms over the last four months.”

Light said the resolution to the dispute, however, is down to the trade union members. 

“Next week they will receive the full proposal and have the opportunity to ballot on it. Until then, I want to recognise and praise them for the hard work and the sacrifices they have endured in getting us to this position,” he said. 

‘No settlement yet’

In a statement, liquidators KMPG highlighted that “no settlement has yet been agreed”. 

“The liquidators have been in discussions with the unions over the last few weeks,” it said. 

It claimed “the liquidators are incurring significant costs in the liquidation due to the inability to peacefully vacate stores and realise the stock which is due to pickets and protests”. 

“The liquidators’ view is that any settlement, should it be agreed, would be self-funding and in the interest of all creditors as the costs being incurred due to the current situation are eroding value and return to the creditors,” KMPG said.

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“The liquidators hope to trade two stores subject to landlord consent to self finance a large part of the settlement,” it added. 

While significant progress has been made in discussions, there are a number of items that have yet to be resolved.  The liquidators will continue to work with the unions and hope a settlement is possible.

Debenhams also closed its 142 stores in the UK, and 22,000 staff were placed on furlough. The UK department store dates back to 1778.

Debenhams has been contacted for comment.

With reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha

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