We cannot allow the fate of Debenhams workers to be repeated

Senator Marie Sherlock
23 July 2020

The terrible treatment of the Debenhams workers must not become the fate of other workers in the retail sector, according to Labour Employment spokesperson Senator Marie Sherlock.

Speaking after a meeting with Debenhams workers and their Mandate trade union representatives, Senator Sherlock said:

“The Debenhams workers are the victims of outrageous behaviour by their former employer; behaviour which could very easily be repeated in other workplaces unless the Government now takes decisive action.

“These workers have been forced to spend 104 days standing up for their right to a fair redundancy. They have been left in a disgraceful position thanks to an opportunistic move by Debenhams’ UK-based parent company, which has heaped misery on loyal and experienced staff. Today, Deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and I met with women who have a combined 105 years of service with the company, yet even this has not been enough to ensure they are treated fairly and with respect. 

“What the Government must do now is clear: a better deal must be found for the Debenhams workers, and the law must be changed so no further workers find themselves in this awful situation.”

Senator Sherlock continued:

“There is still a possible solution on the table for the Debenhams workers. On behalf of the Labour Party, I am calling for the Bank of Ireland to step in as a shareholder of Debenhams’ parent company and see that these workers receive the fair end to their employment that is the very least that they deserve.

“But if we are to avoid this same situation happening again to another group of workers, it’s crucial that the Government acts now to change and strengthen the law. Fortunately, they don’t need to start from scratch: the Duffy-Cahill report has set out clear and needed reforms but has sadly been gathering dust since its publication in 2015. 

“The Government should act now to implement the Duffy-Cahill report, in particular its recommendation to ensure advance consultation on collective redundancies, to allow for recovery of unjustly transferred assets, and to increase compensation to affected workers.

“We are facing into an uncertain economic recovery in which many businesses are unsure of their prospects and many employees are worried about possibly being made redundant. The Government must bring forward these changes to company law and employment law without any further delay.”

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