‘Debenhams Six’: Protesters released following arrest this morning

by Rachel Darcy

Six former Debenhams workers, who staged a sit-in protest at the Henry Street store this morning, have been released following their arrests earlier today.

Dubbing themselves the ‘Debenhams Six’, the group were arrested by Gardai and taken to Store Street Garda Station this morning. Debenhams workers in Cork also held a protest today, over the redundancy package on offer for workers.

In a statement, Gardai said: “Gardaí attended incidents this morning at Henry Street in Dublin and Patrick Street in Cork.

The arrested protesters following their release. Picture: Twitter / Hannah Murphy, FM104

“No further information is available at this time.”

“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 persons were detained at Store Street Garda Station and have been released pending further investigations.

Today’s protests come following a rescinding of an agreed offer made by KPMG to Debenhams workers last week. Mandate Trade Union have said that they are ‘disappointed’ that the liquidators withdrew the redundancy settlement offer, and have called for immediate engagement to resolve this dispute.

In a statement issued this morning, the liquidator said: “Following the actions of certain people over night it has now become clear that the offer is not acceptable to the former employees and others.

“In light of these developments the Liquidators have formally withdrawn their support for the settlement agreement this morning.

“No further settlement agreements will be negotiated by the Liquidators with the former employees.”

In response to the occupation by Debenhams workers in three stores (Cork, Dublin and Tralee), Mandate Trade Union said “152 days of frustration has manifested itself in direct action” and that frustration is completely understandable.

Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary said: “These workers have spent the last 152 days on strike outside their place of employment because their employer, Debenhams Ireland, completely discarded them.

“The law allowed that company to tear up the worker’s redundancy agreement and transfer valuable assets over to the UK parent company leaving their workers with nothing.”

“The workers have lobbied the government for changes to legislation since last April and yet we’ve seen nothing. What should have happened is the immediate implementation of the Duffy/Cahill report so that these workers could get what’s owed to them. Instead, we’ve seen procrastination while these workers are left standing out in the rain.

“Is it any wonder frustration is boiling over?

“This occupation will hopefully highlight the plight of the Debenhams workers and the changes needed to address tactical insolvencies. These workers should never have been put in this position in the first place but inaction by successive governments has led to this and will lead to more actions like it unless something is done soon.”

Light also said that now isn’t the time for condemnation of these workers, and called on all parties to re-engage in an effort to find a satisfactory resolution to the dispute.

“More than 10 days ago Mandate and ICTU met with Minister Damien English and we put proposals to the government. Those proposals could provide a satisfactory resolution to this dispute for our members.

“Since day one of this dispute Mandate has actively been engaged in finding a satisfactory resolution for all Debenhams workers and is something that we intend to continue to do.”

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