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Thursday 8 December 2016

Clerys workers 'thrown to the wolves' as families and friends show support

Workers protesting outside Clerys
Workers protesting outside Clerys
Karen Dunne from Finglas during a protest outside Clerys on O'Connell Street
Shop Steward Maureen Deans from Clara Offaly who worked in Clerys for15 years with husband John Deans speaking to Labour Party TD Ruairi Quinn during a protest outside Clerys on O'Connell Street,
16/06/2015 Clerys Staff (L to R) Emma Kelly from Ratoath, Carol Meade from Cork st & Louise Murray from Blanchardstown during a protest outside Clerys on O'Connell Street, Dublin in support of workers who lost their jobs when the company went into liquidat

banners and placards outside Clerys are quickly becoming a common display.

They were evident on O'Connell Street again yesterday as hundreds came to support the workers who lost their jobs following the sudden closure of the store last Friday.

Still reeling from the shock of the arrival of the liquidators on Friday evening, minutes after they were told they were unemployed, they signed petitions calling for Natrium Ltd, the new owners, to meet with their union.

One woman who travelled to O'Connell Street was 80-year-old Dora Bracken.

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Karen Dunne from Finglas during a protest outside Clerys on O'Connell Street

"I came here with my sister Harriett to support my son Maurice. He has worked here for 32 years and his father Maurice worked here for 25 years before he died of cancer," she told the Herald.

READ MORE: 'The Government should do everything in their power to do something for staff'

"My son took nine sick days in 32 years, that's the level of dedication the staff give, and he's very upset about it."

Maurice spoke alongside his mother at the protest.

"We had heard we might be getting a new owner and some people were fearful of change while others were excited at a new start, but nobody expected the sudden closure and everyone to lose their jobs," he said.

"It was a heartless betrayal to people who have given years of service and paid their taxes.

READ MORE: Liquidators readily admit they handled situation badly - Siptu

"We were like a family, a dysfunctional family at times, but a family all the same. And to be honest, this feels like a bereavement.

"I never got a chance to say goodbye to so many people, and I see some of them crying here today."

It is not only staff of Clerys who are affected by the closure - hundreds worked on the concession stands too.

Sisters Fiona and Emer McDonagh said their mother ran a concession.

"She was on her way home on the bus when she heard the news, and she turned and came back in but the doors were locked and she couldn't get back in to get any of her stock," said Fiona.

"This is like a slap in the face, having your job taken like this," said Anna Zmilowska.

Her friend Giedre Piliutyte said: "Not only have I lost my job but I have lost good friends. We are like a little family."

Five friends from the Benetton and Sisley concessions joined with scores of others to voice their protest as cars and buses sounded their horns in support as they passed the statue of union leader Big Jim Larkin on O'Connell Street.

Larkin was famously arrested in 1913 as he spoke to a crowd from one of the building's balconies during the Lockout.

Tara Murphy summed up the views of nearly all her co-workers in Clerys.

"This is a disgusting way to treat one person, never mind more than 400 people," she said.

"I was all ready for work the next day, preparing things in advance - the only thing was I didn't know I had no job to go to."

Yvonne Wolfe, from Bray, said she had been working in Clerys for 12 years.

"I'm so upset over it because we were told at 5.15pm on Friday the store was closing, and we were told to clear the building by 5.30pm," she said.

"At 6pm the liquidators moved in and we had to leave everything behind us.

"The first inkling I knew there was something wrong was when I was coming back from my break just before 5pm and I saw the managers walking on to the floor with a group of people in suits.

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"I knew by the faces that something was about to happen."

Joseph McCarthy, from Ra- heny, had been a designer in the store for six years.

"The public support has been amazing, and we need it badly. We have been thrown to the wolves.

"I care for my mother and work part-time here, but now it's all gone. I don't know what I'll do."

Keith Doran worked in Clerys for three years and found out his job was gone via Facebook.

"I was at home looking on the computer, and up it came - the store has closed, the jobs are gone," he said. "It was as sudden and simple as that."

SEE PAGE 14

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