Friday 28 October 2016

Former Clerys worker tells court he's been left with €6 in his pocket

Former Clerys worker John Crowe (right) confronts property developer Deirdre Foley at the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts
Former Clerys worker John Crowe (right) confronts property developer Deirdre Foley at the Four Courts. Photo: Collins Courts

A former Clerys worker has told the High Court that he's been left with just €6 in his pocket after the sale of the department store.

John Crowe (64), from Artane, said he had worked at Clerys for 43 years before it closed.

After all the years of service with the store he said he had to make an appointment so that he could get personal items out of his locker four weeks after the closure.

Yesterday an emotional Mr Crowe said he had been left with nothing, adding all he had in his pocket was €6 and he could not afford the bus fare to come to court.

He said he hoped the courts give out better treatment than "the way I have been treated".


Outside the courtroom, Mr Crowe criticised Ms Deirdre Foley, who is the owner of a Dublin-based property company, D2 Private Ltd.

Surrounded by her legal team, Ms Foley left the precinct of the courthouse without comment.

The High Court heard yesterday how a "directors' pack" - containing financial details about the iconic Clerys department store and its workforce - was one of the reasons why inspectors sought to get hold of documents at the offices of the property company.

The inspectors, who are conducting an ongoing investigation into the collective redundancy of the store's 460 workers in June 2015, claim the pack was issued by D2 Private before the group of companies that owned and operated Clerys was sold to a joint venture called Natrium by previous owners, the Gordon Brothers group.

Natrium is a joint venture made up of Cheyne Capital Management in the UK and a company of Ms Foley's.

The pack contained detailed information, including financial statements and accounts of the company that operated Clerys, OCS Operations Ltd, as well as the employees' names, their dates of birth, their years of service, holiday entitlements and their total earnings.

The inspectors, appointed by the Workplace Relations Commission, are opposing a challenge brought by D2 and Ms Foley against the WRC concerning the powers of the inspectors, who seized documents and a computer from D2's offices in May.

Shane Murphy SC for the WRC said the inspectors attended D2 Private's offices as part of their investigation into what has become a complex matter.

The inspectors sought materials from D2 Private after being made aware of the pack, which they claim was supplied to directors of OCS Operations Ltd, Brendan Cooney and Jim Brydie, by an employee of D2 Private before the takeover by Natrium.

The directors were appointed by Natrium hours after the Clerys takeover. That same day - June 12, 2015 - they went to the High Court and sought to have OCS Operations, which was loss-making, wound up.

The pack also contained a watermark linking it to D2 Private. Counsel told the court that investigators rejected claims they have acted outside their remit.

They have at all times conducted their investigation in a proper and lawful manner, counsel said. The applicants were attempting to "unfairly mischaracterise" the investigation, counsel added.


In their challenge, D2 Private and Ms Foley say neither they nor Natrium were ever the employer of the Clerys workers. They also say the inspectors were not allowed to take the materials - which they added included privileged and confidential material - and have acted outside the remit of their investigation.

They also said the inspectors were not entitled to rely on provisions of the 1977 Protection of Employment Act and the 2015 Workplace Relations Act to justify the taking of documents from the D2 office.

They are seeking various orders and declarations, including an order that the materials be returned, and are also seeking damages for misfeasance in public office and breach of privacy. The application is being supported by Natrium, which is a notice party to the proceedings.

The hearing continues.

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