Six arrested as Debenhams workers protest in Dublin

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Six people have been arrested at a protest by Debenhams workers in Dublin, An Garda Síochána said.

Former Debenhams staff have been holding sit-ins at the company’s stores across the country since April in a dispute with the firm over redundancy terms.

Gardaí said they attended incidents at stores on Henry Street in Dublin and Patrick Street in Cork on Monday morning.

“Six persons have been arrested at Henry Street in Dublin for trespassing under the Public Order Act,” a garda spokesman said.

“An act of criminal damage is also being investigated.”

The six protesters were detained at Store Street Garda station in Dublin but have been released pending further investigations.

It is understood that three of those who were taken into custody were former workers at the Henry Street store.

Gardaí remain at the scene at Patrick Street in Cork.

The Irish arm of Debenhams, which operated 11 stores, was placed into liquidation in April.

They all need to get together now and they need to stick up for the employees instead of the employers because at the end of the day it's us that are the back bone of the country

The staff claim the package offered to them when the company was liquidated in the spring was unfair.

They are set to receive statutory redundancy payouts of two weeks of salary per year of service. The workers are demanding four weeks’ pay per service year.

They are also calling on the Government to waive monies owed to it through the liquidation process so they can be used to boost the redundancy packages.

A potential deal between KPMG, Debenhams’ liquidator, and trade union Mandate was announced last week but the workers continued to demonstrate saying the deal failed to deliver four weeks’ pay per service year.

KPMG has warned that the blockade of stock removal is slowing the liquidation process.

The dispute has lasted more than 150 days.

Speaking in the Dáil today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the treatment of Debenhams workers had been "shabby and shoddy".

“Government has communicated its views to the company,” he added.

“In my view, all sides need to get back around the table. We have kept in close contact in relation to this dispute.

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“It is challenging to try and work out a satisfactory package for all workers.

“The Government has committed to reviewing company law more generally.

“These loopholes have to be closed.”

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Mick Barry said that the workers are victims of a multi-national company which has “robbed them” of a decent redundancy package.

Addressing Mr Martin, he said: “Do not tell me you were unaware of the insulting (redundancy) offer to workers.

“You speak of these workers facing shoddy treatment. How could you be so out of touch that an offer of one million euro would end a dispute over the need to increase redundancy payments by ten million euro.

“They have been badly let down by you.”

Sinn Féin eader Mary Lou McDonald has called for the Taoiseach to set out legislation that will protect workers.

Ms McDonald told Micheal Martin that there are options to protect workers and prevent “rouge companies” from treating staff in “such a disgraceful way”.

“You need to start with the Debenhams workers today and lift the phone to them,” she added.

“It’s not good enough for the government to stand idly by while workers who have given years are abandoned.”

Former worker Valerie Conlon told RTÉ News that the workers hope all parties will join together to resolve the issue.

“We hope to achieve that all parties now will get together to talk. That’s KPMG, Mandate the union, Micheál Martin An Taoiseach and Leo Varadkar the Tánaiste,” she said.

“They all need to get together now and they need to stick up for the employees instead of the employers because at the end of the day it’s us that are the back bone of the country.”

The workers have been blocking the removal of stock from the stores since their closure.

The store closures came after the UK parent company entered administration and ended its financial support of the Irish business.

Around 950 staff were employed directly by Debenhams Retail Ireland, with an additional 500 workers at in-store concession stands operated by other retailers.

Many Debenhams stores in the UK have reopened despite the company’s financial difficulties after striking deals with landlords.

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