Sunday 11 December 2016

Deirdre Foley to make retraining offer to former Clerys' workers

Proposals part of redevelopment plan

Published 30/10/2016 | 02:30

OCS will respond this week to a request for additional information from Dublin City Council
OCS will respond this week to a request for additional information from Dublin City Council

The new owner of the Clerys building on O'Connell Street is expected to submit proposals this week aimed at meeting a demand from Dublin City Council that it promotes local employment both during and after the redevelopment of the historic department store.

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The Sunday Independent understands OCS Properties, the company headed up by businesswoman Deirdre Foley, will inform Dublin city planner Mary Conway of its intention to work with local groups and politicians to offer retraining to former Clerys' workers who remain unemployed.

The company is also expected to offer the opportunity for apprenticeships to youths living within Clerys' immediate environs.

It is not anticipated that any commitment will be given to employ former Clerys' workers at the redeveloped Clerys premises, however, as those decisions will be solely in the gift of the building's new office and retail tenants. It is understood OCS Properties will provide employers taking space at the former department store with a list of names of former Clerys' employees for their consideration when hiring.

In requesting additional information from OCS Properties in relation to its planning application, Dublin City Council sought specific details of a strategy "which would promote local employment opportunities" both during and after the redevelopment of the Clerys building.

Under the terms of Dublin City Council's 'Scheme of Special Planning Control for O'Connell Street and its Environs 2016', "property owners and occupiers acknowledge their obligations as stakeholders that workers are assured fair working conditions in this area of special significance to the Irish nation".

Referring to the obligations imposed on property owners under this scheme, one member of the public who wrote to council planners during the statutory period for observations on OCS Properties' plans for the Clerys redevelopment raised the plight of the store's former employees.

They said that Foley and her partners should be granted planning permission only if their application included a "social clause" that provides for "local employment, protection of workers' wages and jobs for former Clerys' workers".

Clearly conscious of the acute public and political opprobrium that arose and which has continued to reverberate since the sudden closure of Clerys last year, OCS Properties is also expected in its latest submission to Dublin City Council to express its willingness to discuss its plans for the Clerys redevelopment with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the Taoiseach's taskforce for Dublin's north east inner-city, and Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor, among others.

It is understood the offer will be made within the context of the Taoiseach's commitment to a 10-year plan to lead the regeneration of Dublin's north inner-city area, which has been allowed to fall into neglect by successive governments.

An economic analysis prepared by DKM Economic Consultants on behalf of OCS Properties has projected the redevelopment of Clerys could potentially create 1,073 direct and indirect construction jobs in its construction phase, and 2,900 direct and indirect jobs once it is operational.

In the more immediate term, OCS Properties is understood to be working with DublinTown (formerly known as Dublin BID) to allow Clerys' space on North Earl Street to be used as a drop and store facility for those shopping in the O'Connell Street area in the lead-in to Christmas.

It is also understood the developer is open to suggestions for the use of the space from local and non-profit groups while it seeks planning permission for its redevelopment.

Last week, the High Court dismissed a challenge brought by Deirdre Foley's investment company D2 Private against powers used by inspectors appointed by the Workplace Relations Commission investigating the collective redundancies of workers employed at the former Clerys department store.

Mr Justice Twomey said the court "did not see any basis for interfering" with the investigation. While the judge said the court's decision did not mean the arguments of Ms Foley and D2 were without merit, judicial review proceedings were not the appropriate forum where those arguments should be made.

The appropriate place was in a criminal trial if one takes place, the court said.

The judge said if somebody suspected of a criminal offence could interfere or even prevent an investigation, that would represent "a very significant restriction to the criminal powers of the State".

In such a scenario, the courts would be "filled with persons, or at least persons with the financial means, seeking to prevent investigations".

The matter has been adjourned to November 8.

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