The news, which came on the same day as the announcement of a further 102 jobs losses within Superquinn, was met with dismay by staff and alarm by opposition parties and trade unions amid fears of a wider decline in the retail sector.
Marks and Spencer said it would be closing its stores in Mullingar and Tallaght, as well as its Simply Food shops in Naas and Dun Laoghaire. The stores did not open yesterday, as the company said staff were only informed of the proposed closures yesterday morning.
The stores will re-open today and the company said the closures, due to take place on Aug 17, was because the shops in question were not profitable.
The head of M&S in Ireland, Jonathan Gleinster, said it had been a difficult decision, taken after a review of its Irish operations. He added that the company was committed to remaining in the Irish market and the company also announced the planned opening of a store in Limerick, with the promise of 250 jobs.
“The retail sector outlook has not improved and we have to act now to protect the long-term good of the company,” he said. “We have carried out a strategic review and it is with regret that we are now closing four unprofitable stores.”
But Siptu warned that the store closures simply proved that austerity policies were harming an already weakened retail sector.
The trade union will meet with M&S workers today and Siptu organiser Neil McGowan said that in addition to the “devastating shock for the workers and their families”, M&S management had also announced it was seeking reductions in the terms and conditions of employment of all staff.
“Our priority is to ensure that our members who are directly affected in the four stores are given the best possible range of options available in an effort to reduce the impact of this devastating news,” he said.
“These job losses are yet another indication of the weakened demand in the domestic economy, and the retail sector in particular, that has been accentuated by the continued economic austerity policies being pursued by the Government.”
A spokesperson for M&S said the company did not comment on ongoing discussions with its staff about pay and conditions.
Fianna Fáil spokesman on enterprise, jobs and innovation, Dara Calleary, said there was a looming crisis in the retail sector and that the Government appeared powerless to intervene.
“In the past number of months we have seen multinational retailers like HMV, B&Q and Homebase close stores throughout the country,” Mr Calleary said. “These companies are globally profitable and there must be serious questions asked as to what conditions are forcing these retailers to close in Ireland. On top of this, countless independent retailers close every week all over the country.
“Fianna Fáil has repeatedly called for the Government to implement a focussed retail strategy to tackle this issue but Minister Richard Bruton has continuously failed to recognise the extent of the crisis that is facing the sector.”
* 80 jobs will go in M&S.
* M&S Mullingar and M&S Tallaght will close, as will M&S Simply Food, Naas, and M&S Simply Food, Dún Laoghaire.
* The stores opened in 2003 and 2007.