Government must legislate to protect staff from rogue employers – Tóibín
Speaking in the Dáil today Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín called on the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, following the Clerys debacle, to insert a cast-iron guarantee in the Companies Act to ensure workers are protected from abuse by rogue employers of the corporate veil provisions in the legislation.
The Meath West TD said:
“On publishing his report on the sale and liquidation of Clerys last week, Labour Junior Minister for Jobs and Employment expressed the view that there are no deficiencies ithe existing legislative framework.
“Yet the report sets out in great detail within the report how Gordon Brothers and in turn Natrium methodically and with great precision used the existing Companies Act legislation to shirk their responsibilities to Clerys directly employed staff.
“It is blindingly obvious from the Minister’s report that it was never Gordon Brothers intention to own and operate a successful city centre Department store. Their sole purpose in purchasing Clerys was a good old fashioned property play, and of course maximisation of profits arising from the sale at great cost to the employees and concession holders.
“That is why Gordon Brothers set up multiple companies on purchasing Clerys in 2012, separating the asset – the property - from the trading company, and why Natrium in turn immediately sold on the trading company to an insolvency expert for the princely sum of €1.
“Considering that all that is laid bare by the Labour Ministers own report, it is astonishing that he continues to hold the view that there are no deficiencies in the Companies Bill when seeking to protect workers from such horrifically sharp practices.
“The disgraceful tactics employed by Gordon Brothers and Natrium are not new, and yet despite this government did not use the opportunity to address this obvious legislative deficiency when introducing the Companies Act 2014.
“Under this recent and extensive piece of legislation Directors can and do continue to set up multiple companies, hiving off assets from the business that employs staff, thus enabling shirk the most basic responsibilities to their staff.
“Government Ministers tell us the legislation must be tested, but despite authoring the Companies Act they cannot assure workers that Natrium will be held liable for their full redundancy payments, nor if they will be held to account for the remaining employments rights obligations shirked so skilfully.
“For years now the trade union movement has raised the abuse of the corporate veil provisions in the Companies Acts by some Directors of multiple companies resulting in employees getting a short shrift leaving them high and dry. It’s time now for the government to take action.”