Niall McNally, SIPTU Organiser, says that, “This is contrary to the Government’s Job Retention Scheme designed to minimise the impact of the Corona virus. Debenhams must now do the right thing by its long serving and loyal workforce.
“We are appalled to learn that these workers, in branches across Northern Ireland, have been made redundant without any consultation or notice. Instead the company has issued them with RP1 forms to claim state redundancy payments.
“Those affected include personal shoppers, café staff and trainers. Our members received an email at 5.20pm on Wednesday 27th May asking them to attend a conference call the next day, Thursday 28th May. Staff thought that it was to talk them through how the company envisaged re-opening in a safe environment.
“They were shocked and dismayed to find they were being made redundant with immediate effect. Furthermore Debenhams, which is still trading, will not be paying redundancy or accrued holidays due, and intends letting the taxpayer pick up the tab through the government redundancy scheme. Managers have informed staff that they would not be taking questions and referred them to a website.
“This is a denial of the workers’ basic right to adequate and meaningful consultation before any redundancies are even contemplated. It also shows a total lack of respect for staff who have seen Debenhams through some very hard times.
“Debenhams has helped itself to all available state aid to date, from rate and rent freezes, to grants and the job retention scheme. However, it has shown no compunction in throwing members of its loyal workforce to the wolves in these uncertain times.
“Any state aid to companies such as Debenhams must come with all the obligations and duties attached. No redundancies or lay-offs should be tolerated by the Government while the company is in receipt of state aid. It cannot be allowed to treat workers and their families in this cavalier way at such a difficult time while simultaneously availing of the taxpayers’ money.”