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Taoiseach slams ‘shabby, shoddy and unacceptable’ treatment of Debenhams workers

Micheal Martin has called for a better deal for workers.

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Debenhams’ former flagship store on Henry Street in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Debenhams’ former flagship store on Henry Street in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Debenhams’ former flagship store on Henry Street in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has urged all sides involved in the Debenhams dispute to get back around the table to hammer out a better deal for former workers.

Mr Martin described the treatment of striking Debenhams staff as “shabby, shoddy and unacceptable”.

It comes after six protesters were arrested in Dublin on Tuesday after former staff held sit-ins at the company’s stores in Dublin and Cork.

Workers have been protesting since April in a dispute with the firm over redundancy terms after 1,000 workers lost their jobs when the chain went into liquidation.

Mr Martin said: “I have to say that the treatment of the Debenhams workers has been very, very shabby and shoddy and unacceptable.

“The failure to honour collective agreements that these workers had entered into is, in my view, unacceptable and the manner in which they’ve been treated is unacceptable.”

He said the offer made to workers “paled into relative insignificance” in comparison to what they would have expected.

“In my view what has to happen now is all sides to get back around the table,” he added.

Trade union Mandate and the workers are demanding four weeks’ pay per service year.

Liquidator KPMG withdrew a proposed one million euro offer that was made to workers last week.

Mr Martin added: “We’ve kept in close contact with Mandate in relation to this dispute and the continuation of this dispute and also in relation to efforts to try and bring about a resolution to it.”

Mr Martin said the government has committed to reviewing company law to close loopholes.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said that workers have been treated in an “appalling manner”.

“Given what has unfolded today, including the arrest of some Debenhams workers, I want you to set out what it is that you have actually done,” Ms McDonald said.

“This is in fact a test case for your government.

“You gave a commitment that the government would review company law that leaves workers in such awful situations, with a view to amending it.

“I want to know where is that review at?

“You may say that this is very complicated and complex, but you also know that you have options available to you to protect workers, and to prevent rogue companies from treating their staff in such a disgraceful way.”

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Mick Barry accused Mr Martin of having sight of the last week’s “insulting offer” before it was put to the workers.

“You speak of these workers having suffered shoddy treatment,” Mr Barry added.

“Well one of the parties that has treated the workers shoddily now is both yourself, your party and your government, by standing by and allowing such an insulting offer to be put before them in the first place.”

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Julien Behal/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Julien Behal/PA)

PA

Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Julien Behal/PA)

Mr Martin denied seeing the offer before it was made to the workers and called for Mr Barry to withdraw the allegation.

A garda spokesman said: “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 protesters were detained at Store Street garda station in Dublin but have been released pending further investigations.

Protesters 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.

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

The dispute has lasted more than 150 days.

PA