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Staff at top store get up to €3,000 extra as wages frozen

MORE than 200 staff at luxury retailer Brown Thomas are set for a cash boost of up to €3,000 but their wages have been frozen until next year.

The landmark department store chain, which has four outlets in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick, is set to re-pay increments to workers that it halted two years ago.

It stopped the pay-scale increases -- which are part of a long-standing agreement between staff and management -- in January 2009.

But workers have won them back in a new deal between management and a union representing the workforce of roughly 600 staff.

Half of the payment will be given to staff next week and the remainder next February and increments will be paid from now on.

The small windfall comes as official figures this week showed that sales at department stores had risen by 3pc since last month, although retail sales were weak overall.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association said the sector had been in meltdown since 2007.

Mandate assistant general secretary Gerry Light said the backdated payments would be significant for some staff, worth a couple of thousand euro in many cases.

"Given the current environment, we see this as a positive development, with a view to restoring some of the losses incurred by our members in the last two to three years during the recession," he said.

"It's a movement in the right direction."

Not all of Brown Thomas's staff will benefit from the payment as many are at the top point of the incremental scale. Pay rates range from roughly €9 an hour to €12.40 an hour.

The deal also means that all staff will not get any other pay increases until February next year.

They will not be paid any of the instalments of the up to 6.5pc wage increase due under the last national wage deal.

This is because a pay freeze that has been in place since 2009 has been extended until February next year.

However, they are getting a one-off benefit of an extra day off this year because of the extension of the pay freeze.

Irish Independent