A ‘directors’pack’ containing financial details about the iconic Clerys department store and its workforce was one of the reasons why inspectors sought documents at the offices of a Dublin-based property company, the High Court has heard.
The inspectors, who are conducting an investigation into the collective redundancy of the store’s 460 workers in June 2015, claim the pack was issued by D2 Private before the group of companies that owned and operated Clerys was sold to a joint venture called Natrium by its previous owners the US Gordon Brothers group.
Natrium is a joint venture made up of Cheyne Capital Management in the UK, and a company of Deirdre Foley who is the owner of property firm D2 Private Ltd.
The pack contained detailed information, including financial statements and accounts of the company that operated Clerys OCS Operations Ltd, as well as the employees’ names, dates of birth, years of service, holiday entitlements and total earnings. The inspectors, appointed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), are opposing a challenge brought by D2 and Ms Foley against the WRC concerning the powers of the inspectors, who seized documents and a computer from D2’s offices in May.
Shane Murphy, counsel for the WRC and the inspectors, said the inspectors attended at D2 Private offices as part of their investigation into what has become a complex matter. The inspectors sought materials from D2 after being made aware of the pack, which they claim was supplied to directors of OCS Operations Ltd Brendan Cooney and Jim Brydie by an employee of D2 Private Ltd before the takeover by Natrium. The directors were appointed by Natrium hours after the Clerys takeover. That same day, June 12, 2015, they went to the High Court and sought to have OCS Operations, which was loss-making, wound up.
Counsel also said the investigators rejected claims they acted outside their remit.
In their challenge, D2 Private and Ms Foley say neither they nor Natrium were ever the employer of the Clerys workers. They also say the inspectors were not allowed to take the materials, which they add include privileged and confidential material, and have acted outside the remit of their investigation.
Ms Foley was yesterday criticised and heckled by a former Clerys worker. Shortly before Mr Justice Michael Twomey rose at 4pm, John Crowe, 64, from Artane, told the court he had worked at the store for 43 years. After all the years of service, he had to make an appointment to get personal items out of his locker four weeks after the closure.
An emotional Mr Crowe said he had been left with nothing, adding all he had in his pocket was €6 and he could not afford the bus to come to court.
Outside of the courtroom, Mr Crowe was critical of Ms Foley.
Surrounded by her legal team she left without comment.
The hearing continues.
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