Over a year on from the announcement on the 9th of April 2020, that all Debenhams stores would be closing in Ireland, which meant that thousands of job losses came about for Debenhams workers, they continue their pickets and protests for fair redundancies . However, trouble emerged as Gardaí made arrests.
According to TheJournal.ie, "four people have been arrested after Gardaí removed a number of workers from a former Debenhams store in Dublin last night." Protesters gathered at the store in support of workers who lost their jobs at the store last year, after liquidators KPMG sought to remove stock from the store last night.
A Garda spokesman confirmed that Gardaí attended the scene to execute a High Court order, but would not confirm details of any arrests’. According to TheJournal.ie, "this stock is to be sold off and used to pay the insolvent company’s ‘preferential’ creditors, including the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners".
However, the tactics of the Gardaí gathered negative reaction as they protected liquidators KPMG who wanted to remove stock from the Debenhams store in Henry St, Dublin, last night.
Mandate Trade Union, which represents former workers, condemned what it described as "heavy-handed tactics" by Gardaí. "This incident should never have happened… We need legislation to prevent this from ever happening again, and we need it now… We know what needs to change, and they need to change it immediately’.
Former Debenhams worker in the Henry St, Debenhams store, Jane Crowe, said ‘she will be making an official complaint to Garda Ombudsman about the officers’ handling of the situation, going on to say, "At one stage, I’d say there were around 60 Gardaí… It was disgraceful’.
People Before Profit TD for Dun Laoghaire, Richard Boyd Barrett was present at this protest too. He said the Garda’s operation was ‘absolutely shocking and unacceptable. He accused Gardaí of ‘using unbelievably heavy-handed, disproportionate tactics against completely peaceful, mostly women, mothers and grandmothers, fighting to defend their legitimate rights". Gardaí had cordoned off ‘the entirety of Parnell Street’ to deal with ‘peaceful protesters’ who were no threat to anybody’.
In summary, the ‘heavy-handed tactics’ of An Garda Siochana rightfully gathered negative reaction from Mandate Trade Union and the Debenhams workers themselves. These protests were clearly peaceful and there were no malicious actions from the workers. It was unsurprising that KPMG liquidators going in to take out stock from the Debenhams store in Henry St gathered negative reaction, as these liquidators went past the protesters without even acknowledging them and were protected by the Gardaí.
Many of whom, who have been picketing outside each of the eleven Debenhams stores, nationwide for a year, are women, who have picketed for their entitlement to a fair redundancy. If this stock can be sold off to pay their creditors, the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners, surely, they can afford to pay all workers laid off in Ireland, from sales that they make from their online store.
Meanwhile, whilst there has been inaction from Debenhams and KPMG, despite offering them a deal that was not good enough for the Debenhams workers, there has also been an unfortunate lack of action from the Government.
Whilst they continue to state that ‘they are doing everything within the law’, they could have passed a motion in Dáil Éireann that would grant these Debenhams workers, their statutory redundancies. Back in 2012, after 160 days, Vita Cortex workers in Cork were granted their statutory redundancies after months of picketing and sit-ins for their entitlement to a fair redundancy.
Why couldn’t the same be done for the Debenhams workers? Whilst it is all well and somewhat understandable, that the Government claim that they do not want to bail-out ‘rogue employers’ all the time, as stated by Taoiseach Micheál Martin, the time has well past for Debenhams workers to get their redundancy.
It is highly unlikely that KPMG and Debenhams will step in to give them their fair redundancies. Therefore, the duty is on Government to provide these workers with their fair redundancies, instead of continuing to leave these workers, picketing. It remains to be seen whether the Government step in and end the fiasco of Debenhams workers, not getting their fair redundancy. Whatever happens, something must be done to help these workers.