Thomas Pringle TD

Pringle: Government has let down Debenhams workers

Pringle: Government has let down Debenhams workers

Independent TD for Donegal, Thomas Pringle, said if Government had implemented the recommendations of the Duffy Cahill report on workers’ rights in insolvencies, the industrial dispute at Debenhams could have been avoided.

Deputy Pringle said: “Full solidarity to all the Debenhams workers. The Government has let you down but you have done yourselves proud.”

Deputy Pringle addressed the Dáil today in support of a Private Members’ Bill, Companies (Protection of Employees’ Rights in Liquidations) Bill 2021, which would strengthen the rights of workers in situations where their employer is in liquidation and the company is being wound up. The bill also gives preferential creditor status to employees in the winding up of a company.

He said: “This is not the first time that this issue has been brought to the Dáil – Vita Cortex, Clerys, Arcadia, Debenhams. The Duffy Cahill report has been gathering dust for about six years now. If its recommendations had been implemented this situation could have been avoided.”

Deputy Pringle said the current bill is informally referred to as the Debenhams Bill, “in recognition of the outstanding perseverance of Debenhams workers who have been on the picket line for almost 400 days. These workers, mainly women, were blocking the removal of stock from closed premises, asking that their previously negotiated redundancy packages be adhered to.”

He referred to an email he received from a Debenhams worker who was made redundant in March 2020 via a generic email after working at the Tallaght store for 30 years.

Deputy Pringle said: “The wonderful trade union spirit can be felt in Carol’s email. She said: “My aim at 62 is for my children and my grandkids to get better working conditions, especially in low-paid retail jobs.’ That’s what trade union membership and industrial action is all about. We are thinking about the future of jobs and the employees coming up the ranks behind us.”

At a briefing yesterday, Debenhams workers described how workers in Waterford trying to stop the removal of stock from their store saw 40 gardaí deployed to the scene.

Deputy Pringle said: “It’s obvious that there are classist, gendered aspects to this industrial dispute, and a lack of widespread public support. The majority of Debenhams workers are women, many of them were working there when it was Roches Stores. They have given their working lives to the retail outlet only to be shafted at the last hurdle.

“The treatment of the women on the picket lines has been despicable,” he said.

Deputy Pringle said: “Why are the gardaí there to break up the pickets anyway? Surely it went against Level 5 Covid restrictions for packers to be sent in to gather the stock. The Tánaiste is great at shedding crocodile tears on the media about workers’ rights but hasn’t explained why the gardaí are policing stock during a pandemic.”

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