Saturday 24 February 2018

D2 file had Clerys staff details before sale, court told

Former Clerys worker, John Crowe from Artane, Dublin, remonstrates with Deirdre Foley as she leaves the court
Former Clerys worker, John Crowe from Artane, Dublin, remonstrates with Deirdre Foley as she leaves the court

Tim Healy

A "directors' pack" containing financial details about the iconic Clerys department store and its workforce was one of the reasons why inspectors sought documents at the offices of a Dublin-based property company, the High Court has heard.

The inspectors, who are conducting an ongoing investigation into the collective redundancy of the store's 460 workers in June 2015, claim the pack was issued by D2 Private before the group of companies that owned and operated Clerys was sold to a joint venture called Natrium by its previous owners, the US Gordon Brothers group.

Natrium is owned by UK-based Cheyne Capital and Ms Deirdre Foley, who is the owner of property firm D2 Private Ltd.

The pack contained detailed information including financial statements and accounts of the company that operated Clerys OCS Operations Ltd as well as employee's names, dates of birth, years of service, holiday entitlements and total earnings. A watermark linked the pack to D2 Private, the court heard.

The inspectors, appointed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), are opposing a challenge brought by D2 and Ms Foley against the WRC concerning the powers of the inspectors, who seized documents and a computer from D2's offices in May.

Shane Murphy SC, for the WRC and the inspectors, said the inspectors attended at D2 Private offices as part of their investigation into what has become a complex matter.

There, they sought materials from D2 after being made aware of the pack, which they claim was supplied to directors of OCS Operations Ltd, Brendan Cooney and Jim Brydie, by an employee of D2 Private Ltd before the takeover by Natrium.

The directors were appointed by Natrium hours after the Clerys takeover. That same day - June 12, 2015 - they went to the High Court and sought to have OCS Operations, which was loss making, wound up.

Counsel also told the court said the investigators rejected claims they have acted outside their remit. They have at all times conducted their investigation in a proper and lawful manner, counsel said. The applicants were attempting to "unfairly mischaracterise" the investigation, counsel added.

In their challenge D2 Private and Ms Foley say neither they nor Natrium were ever the employer of the Clerys workers. They also say the inspectors were not allowed to take the materials, which they add include privileged and confidential material, and have acted outside their remit.

Outside the High Court yesterday Ms Foley was criticised by one of the 460 former Clery's worker who lost their jobs when the store shut its doors.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

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