Debenhams’ workers protest today

By Mick Barry

Today, Debenhams workers at 7 stores throughout the state staged protests at the company’s decision to go into liquidation with the loss of 2,000 plus jobs.

Debenhams may go into full liquidation in just nine days time and the workers therefore left with bare minimum statutory redundancy from the state’s social insurance fund. Companies such as Debenhams, Oasis, Warehouse and Laura Ashley shouldn’t be allowed to shut down at a time when they know that workers cannot properly protest. The Debenhams workers were left with no alternative but to protest today. We need an immediate moratorium on company liquidations until such time as the lockdown is lifted.

These job losses are contestable but as an absolute minimum the workers are entitled to an enhanced redundancy package out of this company’s profits. I do not believe that workers should be put into a situation such as this and the issue can be addressed by putting a moratorium on company liquidations at least until such time as the lockdown is lifted.

A successful and well-organised protests were held across the country without controversy. However, the use of Covid19 emergency powers by the Gardai who policed the Debenhams workers’ protest at Henry St, Dublin.

I’ve received a report from Henry St workers to the effect that they were threatened with arrest if they did not disperse, were threatened with being put into a garda van, and were escorted towards their bus and Luas stops.

The Debenhams’ workers are fighting for their livelihoods and were right to protest. For them and their families it was essential, not non-essential. I observed the protest in Cork city and like the other protests around the country it was well-organised and disciplined with social distancing enforced. I do not think the public will support the emergency powers being used against working people in this way.

I will be raising both the liquidations issue and the arrest threats issue in the Dáil on Thursday.