Clerys staff fear further cuts despite shorter week
STAFF at landmark Dublin department store Clerys are braced for further possible cuts despite backing a four-day week to avoid job losses.
More than 100 SIPTU members have accepted that a reduction in hours first agreed last year ago should continue.
The reductions come as retailers struggle to stay afloat in the recession -- with shorter working weeks and opening hours becoming increasingly common.
SIPTU confirmed that members voted to accept an extension of a temporary 15pc cut in hours at Clerys, which applies to staff across the board, including managers.
Assistant organiser Graham Macken said there was no restriction on how this could be achieved, so staff negotiated individual deals.
It is understood that some workers took a front-ended cut -- accepting shorter weeks of three days -- and may qualify for social welfare for the remaining days, while others spread the cut more evenly over the year.
The extension of the reduction in hours at Clerys came as retailers kicked off summer sales early. Clerys, Arnotts, Debenhams, Brown Thomas, House of Fraser and Harvey Nichols all began offering reductions of up to 50pc earlier this month.
Retail Ireland said there were around 45,000 retail workers on the dole as the labour-intensive industry's sales slumped by a quarter during the economic downturn.
Director of Retail Ireland, Torlach Denihan, said many employers had either brought in redundancies or shorter working weeks.
He said other cuts included reduced opening hours and altered rosters that limited the number of staff working at any one time.
"Retail has had a series of bad years and it's still suffering," Mr Denihan said. "Since the start of the recession in 2008, there has been a fall in retail sales each year.
"This has particularly been the case for companies that rely on discretionary spending, or things people can do without, like suits and handbags.
"For every €100 they were taking in before, they are now taking in €75, which is a colossal fall."
SIPTU said it entered an agreement with Clerys to extend cost-cutting measures in the hope they would see the store through its current difficulties.
"If we hadn't agreed to the measures, the only other option was for them to look at numbers," said Mr Macken.
"We are hoping what has been agreed will be enough to stem the tide."
It is understood that retail union Mandate, which represents around eight staff at the store, did not back the reduction in hours.