Bail Out The Debenhams Workers Now

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The strike at Debenhams continues with the workers effectively blockading the stores to stop any stock being removed. Nothing has moved out of the stores.

Last Monday Brid Smith TD and a number of workers attended a meeting with the liquidator. It was clear to the workers that they the liquidators are feeling the pressure of the blockade. Despite attempts to bully the workers, the workers are holding firm. Nothing will move until they get justice.

A key outcome of the meeting was that the state is the main preferential creditor in the form of revenue, rates and social protection. This has been confirmed by RTE. Interestingly the liquidator has indicated that enhanced payments for the workers could be provided if the state waives its entitlement.

While the value of the assets may not be enough to fully cover the €13m that it would cost to pay enhanced redundancy of 2 weeks per year over and above statutory redundancy there are other options available.

Bank of Ireland owns 5% of Debenhams. It is part of a consortium of banks and hedge funds who were lenders to Debenhams and took over Debenhams last year. These secured lenders essentially purchased 100% of the shares of the Debenham group via a new holding company known as Celine UK Newco 1 Limited.

Bank of Ireland made €758 million in 2019. Bank of Ireland was bailed out by the Irish taxpayer to the tune of €4.8b. The taxpayer owns 14% of Bank of Ireland. The government must call in Bank of Ireland and demand it contribute to a fund to bail out the workers.

The Debenhams workers are an inspiration to all workers. They are victims of the Covid 19 crisis. Next week the government will be announcing billions in supports to businesses.  It must also create a fund to protect retail jobs and pay workers their entitlements established through collective agreements and custom and practice. The unions had an agreement with Debenhams for 4 weeks per year of service.

They must also announce emergency legislation to protect workers’ rights when companies go into liquidation and ensure workers’ entitlements are paid before all other creditors.

The Debenhams workers have called a number of protests.

On Saturday they will mark the 100th day since they were sacked with rallies at a number of shops at 2pm. Follow them at https://www.facebook.com/Stand-with-Debenhams-Workers-113857976970300/

On Monday they will be picketing Bank of Ireland in Dame Street at 1.00pm.