Six arrested in Dublin but Cork protestors remain on-site in Debenhams dispute

Six arrested in Dublin but Cork protestors remain on-site in Debenhams dispute

Pictured outside Store Street Garda Station are Debenhams sit-in supporters and workers who were arrested by Gardai today. They were arrested in Debenham’s Henry Street, Dublin, this morning after occupying the building. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Debenhams workers in Cork have initially been told by gardaí they can continue their sit-in at the Patrick St store in Cork, despite their counterparts in Dublin being arrested.

The former staff claimed to have occupied the retailer's stores in the capital at 7am. The six arrests include the store's shop steward Jane Crowe, two other former employees and three supporters.

A similar protest is ongoing in Debenhams on St Patrick's Steet in Cork. Workers there applauded gardaí as they left the scene of the sit-in, which saw them discuss the move with the demonstrators inside the building and leave without incident.

The workers have been offered just one day on top of the statutory minimum of two weeks per year of service. They are seeking a just settlement of 4-week redundancy pay per year of service.

Ex Debenhams workers entered the closed Debenhams stores in Patrick Street, Cork and Henry Street, Dublin this morning to escalate their action.  Eight ex workers are in the Cork store - five from Cork, two from Tralee and one from thr Mahon Point store. The protestors have food and are willing to sit it out for as long as it takes for them to receive a better offer. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
Ex Debenhams workers entered the closed Debenhams stores in Patrick Street, Cork and Henry Street, Dublin this morning to escalate their action.  Eight ex workers are in the Cork store - five from Cork, two from Tralee and one from thr Mahon Point store. The protestors have food and are willing to sit it out for as long as it takes for them to receive a better offer. Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

The former employees have described the settlement offer made last week as an "insult" and have expressed their "extreme disappointment" at the failure of Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Enterprise Minister Leo Varadkar to present the workers with a fair offer.

Former Debenhams workers stage a sit-in at the retailers' St Patrick's Street store in Cork city. Picture: Valerie Conlon
Former Debenhams workers stage a sit-in at the retailers' St Patrick's Street store in Cork city. Picture: Valerie Conlon

St Patrick's St shop steward Valerie Conlon described as a "modest demand".

"The offer that was made last week fell far short of it. Instead of providing two weeks per year of service on top of the statutory minimum, the offer provides for an extra one day's pay per year of service. That is a real insult."

The Liquidators of Debenhams,KPMG, said that it was withdrawing its offer in response to the sit-ins.

In a statement, they said "Following the actions of certain people overnight it has now become clear that the offer is not acceptable to the former employees and others."

The said their decision was based on reactions from the employees and the likelihood that even if the proposal was passed by Mandates'' members it would not be accepted by many of them. 

Mandate Trade Union said it is disappointed the liquidators of Debenhams Ireland have withdrawn their redundancy settlement offer and has called on all parties to immediately engage to find a satisfactory resolution to the dispute.

In response to the occupation by protesters in Dublin, Cork and Tralee, Mandate Trade Union said “152 days of frustration has manifested itself in direct action” and that frustration is completely understandable.

Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary said:

“These workers have spent the last 152 days on strike outside their place of employment because their employer, Debenhams Ireland, completely discarded them. The law allowed that company to tear up the worker’s redundancy agreement and transfer valuable assets over to the UK parent company leaving their workers with nothing.”

Former Debenhams workers protesting outside Mahon Point on Saturday. Picture: Larry Cummins
Former Debenhams workers protesting outside Mahon Point on Saturday. Picture: Larry Cummins

Protesters in Cork say that, at 6.30am, eight demonstrators, including two former employees in Tralee, gained access to the building on St Patrick's Street without setting off the alarm.

Ms Conlon said "We plan to stay here until Thursday afternoon. We won't be ignored."

Mahon Point employee Carol Ann Bridgeman said they need public support to get justic.

"Our fight is a fight for all workers and we appeal to the public to support us," she said.

A garda spokesperson said they attended incidents this morning at Henry Street in Dublin and Patrick Street in Cork. "Six persons have been arrested at Henry Street in Dublin for trespassing under the Public Order Act. An act of Criminal Damage is also being investigated. The six persons were detained at Store Street Garda Station and have been released pending further investigations. Gardaí remain at the scene at Patrick Street in Cork."

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