Friday 28 April 2017

Embattled Eason threatens to cut 90 jobs and slash salaries

Grainne Cunningham

AT least 90 jobs at book group Eason are under threat with all employees facing a 10pc reduction in pay.

Up to nine stores are facing closure under proposals currently being considered by management, with three bookshops set to be affected by the middle of next week.

Management has told unions and staff that it is seeking a total of €8.5m in costs savings, of which €5m is expected to be facilitated through redundancies.

The company, which employs 1,000 staff across 63 stores, has proposed using compulsory redundancies on a store-by-store basis in order to achieve these savings.

A spokesman for Eason confirmed that savings of in excess of €8m are being sought by the company, as part of an overall restructuring programme, which will see the company inject some €20m into the upgrading of stores and IT systems.

"These discussions are ongoing," the spokesman said, adding that "everything is on the table" and if the unions could propose an alternative method of achieving similar savings, that would be considered.

Talks on redundancies and pay reductions are due to take place between management and the two unions, SIPTU and Mandate, at the Labour Relations Commission on Tuesday.

Announcing the restructuring plan in March, managing director Conor Whelan said: "The retail environment in Ireland remains extremely challenging. The books industry alone has seen the closure of many of our competitors."

Refresh

However, he added: "We are excited about our new retail strategy which will reinvigorate our brand and refresh our core product offerings."

Last year, Eason recorded year-end losses of €10m, down from €21m the previous year. The company, which has been in operation for 125 years, has a turnover in excess of €200m.

Staff, some of whom have up to 25 years' service, have expressed concern at the proposed redundancy package which consists of two weeks' statutory pay plus two weeks' pay for every year worked and is to be capped at €50,000.

The company is also asking all employees, including senior managers, to agree to a 10pc reduction in salary, a pay freeze and increased flexibility in relation to rostering.

After an apparent breakdown in negotiations between management and unions, the company wrote to the unions outlining an alternative plan which would see a "store closure programme" beginning next Thursday, September 1.

This would hit three stores immediately, with losses of about 40 staff. A further six stores would face possible closure from October 1.

Other elements of the proposed plan include the freezing of annual leave entitlements, the termination of the existing sick pay scheme and the reduction of pay and conditions for new employees to minimum levels. The company is also seeking to reduce the number of managers and line supervisors by 15pc.

The amount of retail space in multi-floor stores, such as Eason on O'Connell Street, Dublin, is also expected to be reduced.

The company has told SIPTU and Mandate officials that it "remains open to exploring all alternative options".

Irish Independent

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