Former Irish Debenhams workers have come to the rescue of 69 Bangladeshi employees who were left struggling to feed their families after the British firm terminated their contract without paying their wages.
The team in the Debenhams Liaison Office in Dhaka, Banghladesh were notified of the termination of their employment in mid April whilst they were on lockdown arising out of the Covid 19 pandemic.
They were the point of contact for the UK office to the factories in Bangladesh in account manager and merchandiser roles. They are without State economic support.
Irish workers first became aware of their plight when the Bangladeshi employees posted a video on social media.
They also became concerned when ITV News last week reported that it had seen correspondence from Debenhams' administrator to Bangladeshi suppliers demanding a 90 percent discount on garment orders already at UK ports.
ITV News reports claim that Debenhams has cancelled and is withholding around £53 million worth of payments on orders from Bangladeshi suppliers.
Former Irish Debenhams staff, who were left reeling when their jobs were summarily cut and are themselves fighting to receive proper redundancy, said they couldn't just stand back and allow their peers in Bangladesh to suffer. They have set up a Go Fund me page for staff in Bangladesh.
In a statement the workers said they were shocked at the callousness shown by the company to their employees in Bangladesh.
"We are very saddened to hear our colleagues have been left with nothing considering there is no unemployment benefit in Bangladesh. They are proud people. They didn't ask us for help. We offered to help them.
As a group of workers recently made redundant by Debenhams it angered us that this company could be responsible for ruining the livelihoods of so many people in such a cavalier manner.
The Covid 19 pandemic has stopped any daily wages and there is no hope whatsoever of securing employment."
Meanwhile, a spokesman for former Debenhams staff in Bangladesh said that he was heartened by the support shown to them by strangers thousands of miles away.
"I'm overwhelmed while I see your initiatives and how humanity is still alive. You don't know us. None of us visited Ireland ever. But you feel our team members pain from thousands of miles away."
A Go Fund me page set up to assist the staff in Bangladesh has raised nearly €5,000 since it went online on Saturday.
It has done so without publicity meaning that the funds have been raised by staff who are themselves on State benefits since Debenhams notified them of their job losses by email. Their aim is to raise €10,000.
A Go Fund me page for the Bangladeshi workers has also been set up in the UK by a former Debenhams staff worker who had liaised with the employees in Dhaka as part of her role with the firm.
Former Debenhams Product Developer in the UK, Sally Deighton, worked with the Bangladeshi team.
Ms Deighton said the team in Bangladesh worked extremely hard for the firm.
"They were proud to work for Debenhams and prioritised their jobs. For all the product teams we could not have done our jobs without them. These people were more than colleagues. They dropped us at the airport for the 2am flight, collected us at 4am. They were always prepared ensuring we always were able to do our jobs properly."
The UK Go Fund me page set up on Saturday has raised over a thousand pounds.
A Debenhams spokeswoman in the UK issued a statement when contacted about the Irish Go Fund me page.
"Like all fashion retailers, we have had to make some very tough decisions in relation to our supply chain. We are trying to deal with all those affected as fairly and openly as possible. Suppliers who continue to work with us during our administration period will be paid to terms."
Debenhams has not openly commented on the ITV News report but the firm reportedly refutes claims that they are looking for a 90 percent discount on £53 million of stock from Bangladesh.
It is understood the company are endeavouring to protect jobs and stores in the UK amid the pressures of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Donations can be made to the Irish Go Fund me campaign for Bangladesh.