The IRSP in Cork city yesterday and today attended the ongoing picket and stockroom blockade at the Debenhams store in Cork city centre. Having written about and raised the issue over previous weeks, the IRSP in Cork visited the striking workers after things reached a new level yesterday as workers were forced to stop trucks which arrived to clear out Debenhams stock from inside the main department store building.
After speaking with workers and offering our support and solidarity, IRSP activists on the ground Jason Nott and Jonathan Dunne outlined their concerns about the ongoing situation for the Debenhams workers.
Jason Nott said, “Debenhams have shamefully exploited the Covid pandemic to dispossess decent hard working people of their entitlements. Since early April, the workers here have been left in complete limbo with no clarification forthcoming as to where they stand. The government is neglecting it’s duty here and their behaviour so far amounts to a gross mistreatment of workers; firstly from the outgoing Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty – and now what we have heard so far from the new government which essentially amounts to little more than paying lip service to the plight of these workers.”
We are disappointed but not surprised that former Taoiseach, and now new Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, refuses to intervene in a meaningful way that will ensure a beneficial outcome for the Debenhams workers.
Jonathan Dunne added that, “The recent government formation and the current Debenhams situation represents an example of the more aggressive class conflict emerging in post lockdown society. Anti-worker rhetoric is in overdrive by business association leaders and media figures regarding covid unemployment benefits; clearly depicting the contempt with which the capitalist class holds ordinary working class people.”
What is being ignored in the mainstream coverage of the issue, is how many profitable and operational businesses have benefited from a state funded subsidised workforce during, and likely after, the pandemic. Debenhams, as just one case in point will now utilize the government insolvency fund and benefit from a ready-made liquidation package that will eventually cost the Irish state and taxpayers millions.
The IRSP recognise this as further transfer of public funds to private interests. We continue to express solidarity with the Debenhams workers who continue to fight against this malicious treatment. Furthermore, we call again on the unions to pressure the government and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment – and to intervene on behalf of the workers in a way that will ensure the situation reaches a satisfactory conclusion for the Debenhams workers.