Debenham's workers occupy Dublin store September 2020

Debenham’s workers occupy Dublin store September 2020   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Seán Powney, Debenhams worker

Three Debenham’s strikers, shop steward, Jane Crowe, Doreen Keegan, and myself, were arrested along with members of Militant Left (CWI Ireland) and other left organisations in Dublin on 8 September, following an occupation of the Debenham’s flagship store.

We were arrested, held in individual cells, and then released. Our union, Mandate, expressed its sympathy and understanding for the action, which is welcome. Other strikers gathered outside the Garda (police) station until we were released. We then held a rally and marched to the Dáil (Irish parliament building) to demand justice for Debenham’s workers.

The occupations are the latest step in a struggle that has been going on for over 150 days. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland, while most shops on the high street closed, Debenham’s stores around the country remained open.

We continued to work with little or no PPE and in unsafe conditions until the store finally shut for what we were promised would be a short time. A few weeks later, I and 954 of my colleagues received an email to say we no longer had a job and that Debenham’s would be leaving Ireland…