Ex-Debenhams workers still have not received training fund

Ex-Debenhams workers still have not received training fund

Mandate trade union had negotiated a redundancy package for Debenhams staff four years ago which included four weeks pay per year of service. This agreement was not honoured by the company. Pictured are ex-workers walking away from Cork's closed Debenhams store in May after discarding their posters. File photo: Andy Gibson

A €3 million training fund which was promised to settle the Debenhams dispute has yet to be delivered with ex-workers now looking in danger of missing out on courses due to get underway this autumn.

When Debenhams shut its Irish branches just before Easter of last year the company said it was "desperately sorry" to have to liquidate its business in this country.

More than 1,000 jobs were lost nationally and workers started a picket at stores nationwide in a bid to receive a proper compensation package from the British firm. 

They were seeking a four-week pay per year's service redundancy settlement rather than the basic statutory payment.

Mandate trade union had negotiated a redundancy package for Debenhams staff four years ago which included four weeks pay per year of service. This agreement was not honoured by the company.

The workers ended their picket in May of this year after 407 days following a vote to accept a €3 million training fund which Cork Solidarity TD, Mick Barry, says has yet to be paid out.

"Why have ex-Debenhams workers not yet been allowed to access the €3 million training fund they were promised? They were treated disgracefully by their employer -- they are being treated disgracefully by the Government now. Courses are filling up."

Meanwhile, Cork Sinn Féin TD Thomas Gould has contacted Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in an attempt to get an update on when the funds will be made available.

It is hoped the funds will be released as soon as possible.

The "Stand with Debenhams Workers" Facebook page has also expressed disappointment at the delays in the allocation of the funds.

"The much publicised and lauded 'training fund' hasn't yet been activated for ex-Debenhams staff to access courses, many of which will now be booked up for September."

In a statement in Easter 2020, Debenhams said that it regretted having to close its Irish stores.

“In these unprecedented times, Debenhams is having to make exceptionally difficult decisions.

“Unfortunately, our Irish business has had trading challenges which were exacerbated by the impact of Covid-19."

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