Debenhams workers fight layoffs in Ireland

By Pete Clifford
May 18, 2020

MANCHESTER, England —“We’re not giving up our fight,” Jane Crowe, a Mandate union shop steward at Debenhams’ Henry Street department store in Dublin, told the Militant. Workers at 10 stores across the Republic of Ireland held a second round of protests against job cuts April 29 and 30, after 2,000 of them had been thrown out of work at Debenhams April 19.

“This is an essential protest,” read a banner the sacked workers held at the Henry Street store, a reference to cops ordering them to end their demonstration the previous week, claiming it was “nonessential.” This time cops did not stop the action in Dublin, but in Cork they harassed the 30 workers protesting outside a store there,  threatening they could face prosecution.

On April 30 workers rallied outside Ireland’s High Court in Dublin where Judge Mark Sanfey appointed liquidators to carry through bosses’ request to wind up the company in the republic.

“I believe Debenhams U.K. are devious about what’s really going on,” Crowe explained. “We need to see their books. One minute they say they have no money to pay workers redundancy pay, next they are buying up stock at reduced prices to sell later.”

Messages of support to store workers can be sent to Dave Gibney, Mandate Union, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1, Ireland. Or email:

In the U.K. Debenhams has, according to shop workers union USDAW, decided not to give redundancy pay to thousands who will lose jobs when they close 50 stores. Instead, workers will have to apply for the substantially smaller payout from the government.

Across the Republic of Ireland, workers face devastation with just under half the country’s total workforce of 2.3 million dependent on state benefits. This figure includes some 591,000 laid off in the last few months. Many may not be able to return to their former jobs once the coronavirus lockdown ends.