Thursday, 1 April 2021
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
Next Friday, it will be precisely 365 days since almost 2,000 Debenhams workers received the shocking news, via email from the company, that they were being dumped after decades of loyal service. Those workers were soon to discover that despite having a collective agreement for two plus two weeks of redundancy per year of service, they would get nothing from this company that continues to generate tens of millions in online sales, including in this country. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to those Debenhams workers who continue to fight on. They are an inspiring exemplar of the decency, dignity and determination of working people, particularly women, fighting for their rights and decent treatment.
The Government failed to protect the Debenhams workers. Following on from what happened with Clerys, successive Governments have failed to introduce the legislation necessary to prevent this sort of this despicable treatment of workers. In the past week or so, 460 workers were reluctantly forced to accept statutory redundancy by Arcadia, another company that had committed in an agreement to pay them two plus two weeks. These workers are also being failed by the Government. As already stated, that is because successive Governments have failed, following what happened in respect of Clerys, to act and introduce the necessary legislative protection for workers.
The despicable treatment of the Debenhams workers reached new lows last night in Blanchardstown, which is in the Tánaiste's constituency, where, in the midst of level 5 restrictions, agents acting for the liquidator, KPMG, sent strike-breakers into the store there to pack up boxes and load up trucks with stock. Workers, shop stewards, mothers and grandmothers who were there peacefully protesting, socially distanced, were lifted off the ground by gardaí and dragged away. Meanwhile, strike-breakers were allowed to remove stock from the store and move away unhindered. Since when is strike-breaking an essential category of work during level 5? Is that acceptable? Since when are workers who have been treated in a despicable way denied the right to protest in a socially distanced, responsible and peaceful way against their despicable treatment? When will legislation to ensure that the despicable treatment of the workers of Debenhams and Arcadia will never happen again be introduced?