Union demands to know whether Dunnes Stores is for sale
Union officials at Dunnes Stores have appealed to management to either confirm or deny rumours that the supermarket giant is for sale.
Mandate, the main union at the chain, said rumours about a possible sale had created "unnecessary anxiety" among staff.
A letter sent this week by the union's assistant general secretary Gerry Light asked about a possible "operational restructuring". Mr Light said the letter followed some "strange goings-on" at stores, including the removal of emblems and the changing of long-standing delivery schedules.
Family-owned Dunnes, which is headed by Margaret Heffernan and Frank Dunne, is famously tight-lipped about its business and has so far failed to reply to the request by Mandate. Efforts to reach executives last night were unsuccessful.
There has long been speculation that the country's third-biggest grocery retailer, after SuperValu and Tesco, could be bought by a UK player such as Asda, which is owned by the US-based retailing giant Wal-Mart.
But while those rumours have come and gone over more than a decade, no deal has ever surfaced.
Dunnes Stores has 152 stores throughout Ireland, the UK and Spain, employing almost 15,000 people, according to its own company website.
The chain had a 24.1pc share of the supermarket business in the 12 weeks to January 31, which included the all-important Christmas retail period.
That is less than SuperValu and Tesco, but Dunnes recorded faster growth than its rivals, with sales up by 5.1pc in the period.
This week, competition authorities cleared Dunnes Stores' acquisition of Whelan Food and Meat Processors and Tipperary Sustainable Food Company.
Whelan Food and Meat Processors is owned by Pat Whelan. He is a renowned butcher in Tipperary, who also owns the award-winning James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel.
The butcher also has a presence in three Avoca stores. That part of the business isn't being sold to Dunnes, however.
Dunnes also bought the Café Sol business last year and has begun incorporating outlets into its busy stores.