Tuesday 20 March 2018

Burton raps Clerys owner for 'predator capitalism'

Joan Burton's remarks on 'predatory capitalism' reflect growing government frustration with the Clearys situation
Joan Burton's remarks on 'predatory capitalism' reflect growing government frustration with the Clearys situation
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Tánaiste Joan Burton has hit out at the new owners of Clerys whom she accused of "predator capitalism".

The Labour Party leader yesterday said the Clerys workers have been left "in the lurch" while the taxpayer has been left to saddle the redundancy bill.

She warned this bill could run into millions of euro.

In a report to Cabinet this week, Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash confirmed that the State could ultimately shoulder the biggest financial burden as a result of the controversial closure of the department store last month.

In a speech to an ICTU conference yesterday, Ms Burton vowed to use "every legal avenue" available to "vindicate the State and taxpayers' rights" in this regard.

"Predator capitalism can derive people of their livelihoods in an instant, as happened at Clerys," Ms Burton said.

"I don't believe it's right that the owners can act as they did while leaving workers in the lurch and the State facing the redundancy bill," she added.

Meanwhile, the Tánaiste also said she expects the Low Pay Commission to recommend an increase in the minimum wage when it issues a report later this month.

"I hope and expect that it will recommend an increase in the minimum wage. Any potential anomaly in the PRSI system arising from the commission's recommendations will be addressed at the appropriate time in the Budget," Ms Burton said.

On the issue of working conditions, Ms Burton warned of the threat of a "race to the bottom" in the workforce, adding that this has put the conditions for workers equally under threat.

"And increasingly workers are facing this threat in workplaces where trade unions are discouraged or simply ignored," she told the conference.

"I believe very strongly that Government cannot simply stand aside and allow this race to the bottom to happen without restraint."


Her comments came as frustration grows within Government about the ongoing situation involving Clerys.

Clerys directly employed about 130 people, with a further 330 working at in-store concessions on the premises.

The company behind the retail business, OCS Operations, and two related firms were sold last month by US investment group Gordon Brothers to a firm called Natrium.

Natrium is a joint venture between Irish firm D2 Private, which is headed by Deirdre Foley, and the UK investment company Cheyne Capital Management.

Natrium sold OCS Operations to a British insolvency practitioner. On Monday, the High Court confirmed the appointment of joint liquidators Eamon Richardson and Kieran Wallace of KPMG to OCS Operations.

Natrium retained control of the company that held the physical Clerys premises, OCS Properties. Natrium has claimed it will create as many as 1,700 jobs.

Irish Independent

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