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Protest on Pana

Thursday, 23rd April, 2020 12:23pm

Former employees of Debenhams gathered outside Cork stores this week in protest at their treatment by the company.

The protests took place on Tuesday morning outside Debenhams stores across the country, including Mahon Point and Patrick’s Street in Cork, with protesters observing social distancing throughout.

Last week the chain, which is based in Britain, made close to 2,000 Irish workers redundant when it announced that the company would be going into liquidation and would be closing all 11 of its Irish stores.

Staff believe that the company’s move to enter voluntary liquidation was partially an attempt to avoid paying decent redundancy to workers who’ve served the chain for many years.

Former shop steward in the women’s wear department at Debenhams on St Patrick’s Street, Valerie Conlon, told the Cork Independent that workers feel they have been “left out to dry” by the company.

“It all kicked off on Holy Thursday when we got the generic email saying that the company was being liquidated in Ireland. It was a big shock,” Ms Conlon said.

She added: “The reason we had the protest today was to tell Debenhams that we're fighting, and we're not going to stop fighting. We don't want Debenhams using the taxpayer’s money to pay our redundancy. We want Debenhams to pay our redundancy.”

Ms Conlon, who began working at the Patrick Street site almost 24 years ago when it was still Roches Stores, said that the mood is low among the workers but that they are determined to be heard.

She said: “They're all worried. There are people that have just bought new houses and have mortgages. There are people who are expecting babies. The mood amongst them is very down at the moment.

“I know Debenhams are probably hoping that it will all dry up after a few days and we'll disappear, but we're not going to disappear. They threw us under the bus, but we're not staying there.”

According to Ms Conlon, the protests were received very well by the public, with a number of drivers heard honking their horns in support.

“The people of Cork were absolutely brilliant. Eason’s brought over umbrellas for us, and Centra on Patrick Street brought out teas and coffees for us. The gardai were absolutely fabulous too and kept an eye on us to make sure we were okay,” said Ms Conlon.

In a statement issued to the Cork Independent, Debenhams stated that company is currently in a consultation process with its employees.

The statement read: “Debenhams Retail Ireland Ltd. (DRIL) understands that this is a very difficult time for its dedicated employees and greatly regrets having had to seek liquidation.

“The business is supporting the joint liquidators, Kieran Wallace and Andrew O’Leary of KPMG, in order to get the best outcome for employees and creditors in this situation and remains committed to the consultation process with the Unions representing employees.”

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