herald

Monday 5 December 2016

Victory for ex-Clerys workers as government to review company law

Former Clery's employee Gerry Markey
Former Clery's employee Gerry Markey

Former Clerys workers have secured their first major victory after the Government engaged two experts to carry out an extensive review of company law.

Labour Court chairman Kevin Duffy and company law specialist Nessa Cahill will deliver a report in eight weeks, with recommendations for how to prevent what happened to the 460 staff in Clerys happening again.

The review will look at how to prevent companies restructuring or separating valuable assets from their operations arm in a bid to avoid their responsibility to employees.

Staff at the Dublin department store learned in June that they were to lose their jobs, just hours after the store building was sold.

A liquidator was appointed and staff were entitled only to statutory redundancy.

Gerry Markey, a former Clerys worker who was employed in the store for 34 years, welcomed the news at a rally outside the O'Connell Street landmark.

"This is what we've been angling at for quite a number of months. The law has to be examined and it has to be made sure that nothing like this can ever happen again," he said.

"What was done was just so horrible and there was no need for it.

"The law has to be changed to protect workers and their rights and to give them at least 28 days notice so that they can fight for what they need.

Justice

"It's not too late for other workers. It's not going to benefit anybody who has already been affected but it will protect other workers for the future," he added.

"This is the proof that there is justice for workers."

Labour junior minister Ged Nash paid tribute to the former Clerys staff.

"We believe that the way they were treated was disgraceful and we want to ensure that the risk of these types of abuses happening in the future are minimised," he said.

"It's important that in circumstances like this employees are put in the centre of our law."

Mr Nash said that it was "corporate law gymnastics" that allowed the restructuring of Clerys, which was fully compliant with the law.

As part of the process the Company Law Review Group will also examine legislation with a view to recommending ways company law could be changed to better safeguard employees and creditors.

"It's a good day in the Justice for Clerys workers campaign," SIPTU organiser Ethel Buckley said.

"In the Clerys liquidation a number of loopholes were starkly highlighted. What we expect from this review is that these loopholes will be addressed and that the legislation will be amended to ensure that what happened to the Clerys workers cannot be repeated."

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