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Government inaction facilitated appalling treatment of Clerys workers – Cullinane

17 June, 2015 - by David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin’s Workers Rights Spokesperson Senator David Cullinane has called on the government to change Company Law to avoid a recurrence of the events that led to the closure of Clerys department store and the loss of over 400 jobs. 

Senator Culllinane said:

“The dramatic closure of Clerys and the appalling treatment of workers could not have happened but for the fact that in Ireland company law trumps employment law when it comes to employers obligations to workers.

“In 2012, Clerys was placed into receivership and sold to US based Gordon Brothers for €2 million.

“Bank of Ireland wrote off debts of €10 million and loaned the same amount to the new owners. In 2013, when the store was affected by flooding it’s believed the Brothers received €14 million in insurance money. 

“The Brothers then separated the retail business from the property assets, which they eventually sold to a company by the name of Natrium Ltd on 12 June 2015 for a reported €29 million.

“They also sold off properties belonging to the site for a reported €5 million and having repaid the loan to the bank they accumulated a profit of more than €19 million in less than three years.

““The retail business was then put into liquidation just hours before the sale to the real estate company Natrium Ltd was confirmed.

“Natrium is a joint venture between D2 Private which is owned by Deirdre Foley and Cheyne Capital Management , a London based property investment and hedge fund business.

“Ms. Foley, a former KPMG employee, owns 20% of Natrium while the remainder 80% is owned by Cheyne.  Prior to this, many of the €1billion plus properties owned by D2 before the crash were put into NAMA and sold off.

“We now know that former NAMA executive Graham Emmett, who left the Agency in 2012 is a senior executive with Cheyne’s London office and that Foley emerged from NAMA with most of her assets and wealth intact.

“On the other hand, Gordon Brothers or Natrium made no provisions for workers wages, holiday pay or redundancy payments.  What happened at Clerys was avoidable and workers could and should have had their rights and entitlements legally protected.

“The failure of the state to introduce legislation that would tip the balance in favour of workers and away from vampire like capitalist speculators is unacceptable.

“Uncontrolled financial speculation by people with absolutely no regard for ordinary people’s livelihoods must be made illegal.  There can be no dispute about this – the government is either on the side of capital or on the side of workers.” 

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