Debenhams' 11 Irish stores, including its large branch in Newbridge, are set to be placed into liquidation, it has been reported this lunchtime.
The shops have been closed temporarily during the Covid-19 lockdown, but it is understood that staff have been told today by letter that they will not reopen after restrictions are lifted. The department store retailer employs more than 1,500 people across the country.
The store's UK parent company, whose shops are also closed, is entering into administration.
The Irish arm previously exited an examinership process back in 2016. Debenhams has Irish stores in Dublin, Kildare, Waterford, Galway, Limerick, Tralee and Cork.
Trade Union Mandate said that the workers in the stores must be prioritised during the liquidation process.
“Despite knowledge that the company was in administration and that it wasn’t trading well, this news has come as a massive shock to our members who will be devastated by this announcement," said John Douglas, general secretary. "Our sympathy is with each and every worker and their families who will today be wondering how they’re going to pay their rent, mortgage or their bills.”
He added that retail sector is in a very precarious state and will need government intervention due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mandy Kane, Mandate divisional organiser for the Midlands, said that between 50-55 employees would be affected at the Newbridge store, which has been open in the Whitewater Shopping Centre for 14 years.
She said that the sudden closure of the entire Irish operation had been 'unexpected' and the Kildare staff were upset and shocked upon receiving letters from the company this morning. Many have been dealing with the financial fallout of the Covid-19 layoffs, and have partners who have also lost work.
It is expected that staff will be able to claim only statutory redundancy if a deal cannot be worked out with the liquidators.