Wednesday 26 July 2017

Job fears mount despite assurances from retailer

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

ARNOTTS has assured its almost 1,000 workers their jobs are "secure" -- but fears are growing of redundancies under bank ownership.

The retailer attempted to quell workers' fears after they learnt their future would soon be in the hands of Anglo Irish Bank and Ulster Bank as a result of clocking up €300m in debts.

It contacted their union Mandate to explain it did not plan an announcement about its financial difficulties yesterday and had no control over the news leaked in the media.

Arnotts employs more than 900 staff at its landmark store on Henry Street in Dublin and almost 100 between its subsidiary, Boyers and Co on Talbot Street, and its Stillorgan outlet.

"Jobs within Arnotts remain secure and Arnotts continues to invest in the future of the store," it said in a statement. "We would like to reassure our customers that it is business as usual."

But there is huge uncertainty about jobs, with Mandate raising fears that the banks may "offload" the landmark store if the EU rubberstamps a deal that will give them effective ownership.

Experts said the jobs were "only safe for now", as €300m in debts was a lot for a "relatively small company".

With nationalised Anglo calling the shots, there are fears it may want to slash costs.

"We welcome Arnotts' statement but it's one thing for it to say jobs are secure now, but it no longer has control of the situation and that's the fear staff have," said Mandate divisional organiser Brian Meegan.

"We are very concerned about the jobs because we don't know how secure Anglo is itself, given what's happened in the banking industry.

"I can see them trying to offload it on to another retail company. They may also start looking at cost offsetting measures, but what will that mean? Will it be job losses?"

The union wrote to Arnotts and the banks yesterday seeking meetings and commitments in relation to job security.

Staff were too afraid to give their names after the news broke, but one said they were in shock. "We were terrified about the manner we found out about this. It came as a complete surprise. We were in shock."

Staff at Arnotts did not suffer pay cuts during the recession, but there was a freeze on wages and workers agreed to alterations to their contracts due to new opening and closing hours.

Irish Independent

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