Wednesday 26 October 2016

Clerys workers will only get statutory redundancy

Clerys Department store which has closed for business on O' Connell Street, Dublin
Clerys Department store which has closed for business on O' Connell Street, Dublin

Clerys workers and loyal customers this morning stood side by side outside the iconic O’Connell Street store to voice their anger at the treatment of staff.

The union representing those people who lost their jobs when the shop shut suddenly on Friday are to meet with liquidators today.

The 130 direct employees of Clerys only stand to receive statutory redundancy.

It also emerged today that retailers who were running their own concessions at Clerys Department Store were owed €2m in cash and €3m in stock was still inside the store.

READ MORE: Ryan Tubridy slams ‘disrespectful’ treatment of shell-shocked staff and would ‘love to fix’ O’Connell Street

The companies entered ‘concession agreements’ with Clerys where money from their in-store sales is held in trust and subsequently paid to them. The outstanding amount is €2m, which was due for payment yesterday.

The concession holders said they also invested money on the new store fit-out at Clerys just 18 months ago.

At the rally at noon today a large group of workers, former customers, and members of the public gathered at the store in solidarity with those who have lost their jobs.

Eamon Twomey said he had been working in the stores at Clerys for 35 years.

“I’m 59 now, so I don’t hold out much hope of getting a job anywhere else at this stage of my life,” he said.

“We had an inkling that the company was about to change hands, but the manner in which it was done was terrible.

“We had the rug pulled from under us. We didn’t expect it.”

Eamon’s colleague Michael Moore (52) had been working in the stores for 18 years.

“I thought my friends were winding me up when they told me the store was closing. We were getting word from outside,” he said.

“We are all shell shocked.”

Ernest Ndlanzi, from South Africa, was waiting patiently outside the door of Clerys with a €100 gift voucher he bought on June 4.

“I’m hoping to find out if I have any chance of getting my money back,” he said.

Tom Mooney, from Belvedere Place, said he had been a customer of Clerys for many years.

“I came down just to show my support for the workers,” he said. “I think they have been treated terribly and I want to give them all my support.”

The rally comes after Jobs Minister Richard Bruton described the manner in which staff learned of the department store’s closure as “appalling”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the way Clerys workers were treated was “very insensitive” and the matter could have been handled a lot better.

Siptu is expected to meet Minister of State Ged Nash this evening, with spokeswoman Teresa Hannick saying they were also looking for a meeting with real estate company Natrium, the new owners of the store.

“They were in the High Court on Friday evening and they got an insolvency order and KPMG are acting on a court order,” she said. “Most of our members expected to go into work this morning, but instead they will be going to their local social welfare office to sign on.”

READ MORE: ‘It’s despicable – they sent in 20 burly security men to make sure everyone left’

Clerys employed 130 workers directly with another 330 people working in concessions within the building.

Mr Bruton last night said that he could  “fully understand” how the staff felt. “Nothing will take away the shock for the workers that have been impacted in this way,” he said.

“It’s terrible to lose your job and it’s particularly appalling to lose your job in the circumstances they’ve experienced, very poor communications.”

He said that he hoped a meeting between the liquidator and unions will “give people greater certainty in this very difficult time”.

Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has confirmed that officials in the Department will hold briefing sessions for the workers to outline the jobseeker process in the coming days.

“This is a very difficult time for the staff who gave so much to the company and, frankly, have been treated very badly,” she said.

Meanwhile, an Taisce is now seeking the intervention of both the Minister for Environment Alan Kelly and the Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe on what it says is a planning policy failure which has contributed to the closure.

It says Government policies on national planning and transport are supposed to curtail further car-based, out-of-town retail development which damages urban centres – but An Taisce said these policies were not being applied.

“Despite retail planning guidelines published by the Department of the Environment, which are supposed to protect urban centres, local councils and An Bord Pleanala are continuing to make decisions expanding car-based, motorway-orientated retail space,” said an An Taisce spokesperson.

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