Tuesday 25 October 2016

Clerys closure was an act of 'predator capitalism' - Burton


TANAISTE Joan Burton has hit out at the new owners of Clerys, whom she accused of "predator capitalism".

The Labour Party leader yesterday said the Clerys workers have been left "in the lurch" while the taxpayer has been left to saddle the redundancy bill.

She said this bill could run into millions of euro.

In a report to Cabinet this week, Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash confirmed that the State could ultimately shoulder the biggest financial burden as a result of the controversial closure of the department store.

Ms Burton vowed to use "every legal avenue" available to "vindicate the State and taxpayers' rights" in this regard.

"Predator capitalism can deprive people of their livelihoods in an instant, as happened at Clerys," Ms Burton said.

"I don't believe it's right that the owners can act as they did while leaving workers in the lurch and the State facing the redundancy bill," she added.

Ms Burton made the remarks at an Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) conference in Co. Clare yesterday. She warned of the threat of a "race to the bottom" in the workforce, adding that this has put the conditions for workers equally under threat.

"Increasingly workers are facing this threat in workplaces where trade unions are discouraged or simply ignored," the Tanaiste told the conference.

"I believe very strongly that Government cannot simply stand aside and allow this race to the bottom to happen without restraint."

Clerys directly employed about 130 people, with a further 330 working at in-store concessions on the premises.

The company behind the retail business, OCS Operations, and two related firms were sold last month by US investment group Gordon Brothers to a firm called Natrium.


Natrium is a joint venture between Irish firm D2 Private, which is headed by Deirdre Foley, and the UK investment company Cheyne Capital Management.

Natrium sold OCS Operations to a British insolvency practitioner.

On Monday, the High Court confirmed the appointment of joint liquidators Eamon Richardson and Kieran Wallace of KPMG to OCS Operations.

Natrium retained control of the company that held the physical Clerys premises, OCS Properties.

Natrium has claimed it will create as many as 1,700 jobs after it redevelops the Clerys site over a two-year period, transforming it into a "mixed-use destination".

In a 23-page post mortem on the sudden and controversial closure of the iconic Dublin department store last month, Mr Nash said there was "scant respect" shown for those affected by the decision to pull the shutters down on the O'Connell Street landmark.

"It appears that the affair was, to say the very least, handled in a grossly insensitive manner which showed scant respect for those so adversely affected by this course of action," said Mr Nash in a report distributed to Cabinet members.

Separately yesterday, Ms Burton said she expects the Low Pay Commission, which is due to report this month, to recommend that the €8.65 minimum wage is increased.

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