Former Debenhams workers marched on the Taoiseach’s Cork office today demanding support from Government, which they say has treated them “shabbily and disrespectfully”.
“We will keep fighting for what we deserve as working people,” march organiser Carol Ann Bridgeman said.
“He [Micheál Martin] should be looking after us. We need him to step up for his constituents and take action.”
Almost 20 people braved sporadic, heavy rain showers to march from the former Vita Cortex plant on the Kinsale Road — where workers staged an iconic 164-day protest almost 10 years ago — to Micheál Martin's constituency office in Turners Cross on the 168th day of the Debenhams protest.
Speaking outside the Taoiseach’s office, Ms Bridgeman said: “You [Micheál Martin] have acknowledged that we have been treated very shabbily by the employers of Debenhams. We now feel that we are being ignored and treated shabbily and disrespectfully by you, our government.
“There have been calls for ways in which our dispute can be resolved over the past 168 days, including two motions put to the Dáil. But each time the Government has dismissed the motion in favour of not upsetting employers.
These said companies are then enabled and protected under laws to walk away whenever it suits them and shirk responsibilities, leaving behind total devastation for their staff.”
Former Debenhams staff said that they were “gutted and despondent” that a Dáil motion was voted down last night by just three votes which was designed to better protect them and other workers.
Independent TD Joan Collins put forward the motion, calling for a ringfenced insolvency fund to be established which would facilitate all payments due to workers if a company went bust.
It also called for emergency legislation to introduce the recommendations of the Duffy Cahill report which was commissioned following the controversial Cleary’s liquidation.
“This is the second motion that would have protected workers that was squashed by Government. We were absolutely gutted. Despondent,” Ms Bridgeman said.
“KPMG are packing up the Debenhams stores. We’re asking the Government to stand up and work with us.
“We want actions not words,” Ms Bridgeman said.
Solidarity TD Mick Barry, who voted in support of the Joan Collins' motion, said this morning: "Last night's vote has angered Debenhams workers and other trade unionists right across the country.
"When workers engage in an industrial dispute for 168 days and reach out to their elected representatives for support and those representatives turn their backs on them it's something that cuts very deep and I suspect something that will not be forgotten for a long, long time."
Sinn Féin councillor Mick Nugent who attended the rally said: “I think there’s disappointment that the vote in the Dáil last night was lost. The motion itself had been gutted by the Government but the Debenhams workers were hoping it would have been passed.
“In Cork North Central, I know they’re disappointed in TDs Pádraig O’Sullivan and Colm Burke who were present and voted against the motion. But people are here this morning, they’re determined and the protest will carry on.”