Debenhams Workers Dispute: 300 Days of Working Class Resistance
On the day of what has been described as one of Irelands longest workplace disputes, Debenhams workers have reached a milestone of 300 days of collective action, as they continue to demand their full redundancy owned to them. Despite the cold and rain, pickets have remained constant at Debenhams stores in Dublin, Tralee, Limerick, Galway and Cork as they refuse to allow goods to be removed from stores until such a time when they are paid in full what is rightfully owed to each of them.
On the 300th day of action, we have spoken to one member of the ex-Debenhams workers in Cork, who has supported her fellow workers throughout this long dispute at the various occupied sites.
Can you tell us a little bit about the background to this on-going action at Debenhams stores across the country?
Our back round, if you’re not aware, that we were informed via email that all our jobs were gone and basically good luck and thanks for all our years of service. I personally only have 10 years of service but some of my colleagues had 40 years plus served between Roches Stores and Debenhams.
It was just a real slap in the face, so we are just fighting for our extra 2 weeks that we voted for in 2016 as a collective agreement. This is when the company entered into liquidation which I think is only what we are entitle to nothing more.
What has life been like for workers on the picket lines over these past 300 days?
For me I have just returned to the pickets after having a baby but for the others I know its been hard. Out in all kinds of weather storms ice, rain typical Irish weather and away from there families. But I must say they are all an amazing bunch and life long friendships have been made.
Have you had much support locally as well as around the country or beyond?
The support from the people of cork has been amazing. Between people giving donations, cups of coffee, vouchers and food. We cant thank the people of Cork enough and their kind words of encouragement to stay strong and fight on has been invaluable to us.
What has the government done to end this battle in supporting yet more workers being cast aside by the bosses in such a way as what has happened to the Debenhams workers?
At the end of the day we just want a fair resolution. A fair offer would turn his €3 million offer into hard cash and pass the Cahill Duffy bill, to protect all the future workers as this is only the start of the retail downturn we are just the first casualty.
Has this strengthen workers resolve in continuing the fight to get what Debenhams workers are fully entitled to?
I think although its been 300 days we are not done fighting yet and even though we have had to cut our numbers on the pickets due to the Covid pandemic, we are all still willing to fight on. We can't walk away now!!!
Have you had support and solidarity from other Debenhams workers in the likes of Derry and Belfast or further afield?
I have received Facebook messages of support from a few of them and I know at the start of our campaign a few of our shop stewards travelled to Belfast to protest outside their store. Unfortunately now they are left in the same situation as us and Debenhams walk off it really doesn't seem fair.
The picket line actions has continued now for 300 days, through all types of weather, conditions and Covid 19 restrictions. What has kept workers strength and morale up all this times?
It’s been hard but I think we are such a close group we just support each other and we are all going to have bad days. After all when all this is over and the Covid is under-control we will have no jobs. I don't think that has hit home yet for me anyway.
For those watching at home or via social media, how can they express their solidarity with Debenhams workers at this time?
Just share a post or give us a little comment its great to know we have some support out there. I know there are a lot of other big issues going on at the moment but we are still here and still fighting away.
If you had a message for workers who find themselves in the same situation in the days and months ahead, what would it be?
Stand up and fight like us. We have all paid our taxes and we deserve to be treated better then this. Get your union behind you, stick together and fight!
Video of 300 days of action here:
You can link up and follow the Debenhams workers at the following Facebook link