Over 20 workers who protested outside Debenhams in Henry Street were threatened with arrest today if they did not disperse. This is the first time that emergency social distancing legislation has been used to break up a workers’ picket line.
The workers were perfectly orderly and maintained a proper social distance from each other. It was a disgraceful move.
During an emergency when workers have been deprived of all means of striking or occupying, they should have a right to their collective voice. The order to disperse was a sinister move that could be used again.
A People Before Profit representatives spoke to some of the workers concerned.
‘We don’t want to be here. We know that many people have died as a result of Coronavirus but Debenhams are using the crisis as a cover.
‘We were sent an e mail and told that the Irish state could look after us. They were not paying any redundancy. I have been working here for sixteen years – and this company will not give us a penny.
‘They want Irish taxpayers to pay us redundancy. They even told us that we should go to the Citizen’s Advice to find out about our rights.
‘We knew for some time that Debenhams in England was in trouble – but we thought we would be ok. But we knew something funny was going on when they started packing away stock just as the crisis hit.
‘We worked hard for this company and did not get a pay rise for ten years – just a 10 cent increase recently.
‘Bank of Ireland have a major stake in the consortium that run Debenhams. The people of Ireland bailed out this bank – so now it is time that they did something for us.
‘They cannot just walk away and pay nothing to people who worked here for ten years’.
Workers have a legal right to statutory redundancy they should get at least two weeks for every year of service. Some companies will pay up to five or six weeks for year of service.
Debenhams may try to move their stock out. But this is totally unacceptable. On no account should they be let move anything until the workers get justice.