By Mick Barry TD
It has been three months since the former Debenhams workers voted to end their dispute, and yet they have still not received a single cent from the €3 million training fund that they were promised. With the registration for 2021/22 courses now open, this issue must be addressed as a matter of real urgency.
It is bad enough that these workers had their jobs destroyed while also being denied a decent redundancy package, but it adds further insult to injury that this training fund is now being put beyond their reach.
The state board in charge of further education and training, Solas, say that they cannot process the fund until such time as they are supplied with lists of the ex-Debenhams workers.
They claim that they have received no list from either the workers’ unions or from liquidator KPMG, and that GDPR legislation has slowed the process.
The problem is not so much GDPR legislation, but rather that this issue has not been treated as an urgent priority by any of the organisations involved – including the Government – and that key individuals went off on their holidays before the lists were sorted.
Once again, we see working class people placed at the bottom of the list of priorities. This is perhaps not surprising from the Government, KPMG and Solas. It is more remarkable when it comes from the workers’ own union, Mandate, who should have moved heaven and earth to get this sorted before the holiday season kicked in.
The training fund scandal is coupled with another scandal, this one relating to the personal belongings of ex-Debenhams workers that were left in the stores after their sudden closure was announced in April last year.
These belongings were returned to workers in three stores (Waterford, Henry St Dublin and Patrick Street, Cork) but not to workers in the other eight (Blanchardstown Dublin, Tallaght Dublin, Blackrock Dublin, Mahon Cork, Tralee, Limerick, Galway, Newbridge).
Liquidators KPMG are now saying that they will post personal belongings to workers in the eight stores – but only if the workers pay the postage! They are also saying that they will not be legally liable if items are missing.
Socialist Party public representatives will raise their voices loudly this week to demand that the training fund impasse be resolved.
Nor will the petty humiliations these bureaucrats place in the way of these heroic workers be allowed to demoralise fighters for workers’ rights. On the contrary, it just serves to remind us what a spiteful system this is and underlines the need for system change to break with the rule of capitalism.