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Monday 21 August 2017

Deal for ex-Clerys workers on cards as work gets green light

Siptu’s Ethel Buckley and former Clerys worker Gerry Markey at the Clerys hearing at An Bord Pleanala in Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Siptu’s Ethel Buckley and former Clerys worker Gerry Markey at the Clerys hearing at An Bord Pleanala in Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

Work can begin on the former Clerys department store site after trade union Siptu dropped its opposition to the controversial redevelopment.

The country's biggest trade union has withdrawn its appeal against the granting of planning permission awarded last December in return for securing concessions over new roles when the development is complete.

It is understood the deal may include a settlement package for former Clerys staff, along with a commitment to provide good quality jobs with fair working conditions.

Details of the settlement deal were due to be announced at 10am today by Lord Mayor Brendan Carr with representatives from Siptu and Natrium director Deirdre Foley.

The decision means work can now begin on the €150m redevelopment which includes plans for a 176-bedroom hotel, rooftop viewing terrace, retail units and offices.

A total of 460 staff, including employees of Clerys as well as those employed by concession holders, lost their jobs when the store closed its doors in June 2015 after it was bought for €29m.

Natrium, which owns the site, is a joint venture between D2 Private, whose chief executive is Deirdre Foley, and UK company Cheyne Capital Management.

Clerys was restructured in 2012 by its previous owners and bankers as part of a receivership process.

This resulted in the property assets becoming one company while the day-to-day retail business operation became another.

When the operating company went into liquidation, staff were made redundant, with the State paying statutory redundancy totalling €2.5m.

Dublin City Council granted planning permission for the redevelopment last December, but the decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanala by Siptu.

A public hearing into the scheme opened yesterday morning and was due to last until Friday.

However, after requesting an adjournment, Siptu told An Bord Pleanala inspector Gillian Kane that it was withdrawing its appeal.

In a brief statement, Siptu services division organiser Ethel Buckley, speaking on behalf of the Justice For The Clerys Workers Campaign, said a process had been established that would "adequately deal with our concerns in relation to the Clerys development".

"Due to this, it is now poss-ible for Siptu to withdraw its appeal to An Bord Pleanala," she said.

Built in 1922, Clerys has undergone a series of facelifts over the years.

Reactivate

Architect Rory Murphy, of Henry J Lyons, said the redevelopment would "reactivate" Earl Place and other under-used streets off O'Connell Street.

"It is a very strong piece of architecture, from the same architects who completed Selfridges in London," he told the An Bord Pleanala hearing.

"From the rear of the building it is less successful. We're looking to reactivate Earl Place, and allow active use. The Luas sits either side of the building and the movement of people will be quite considerable."

Developers claim that just under 3,000 jobs will be created when the scheme is completed.

The director general of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) said it is considering if there are grounds for a criminal action following the shock closure of Clerys.

A report is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

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