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Staff at Body Shop stores in Republic left without month’s pay and redundancy, says union

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Staff at Irish branches of The Body Shop have been left without a month’s pay, as well as holiday and redundancy entitlements, according to their union.

“The staff have lost their jobs but haven’t made redundant,” said Siptu organiser Denis Sheridan on Thursday, as the six stores, four in Dublin and one each in Cork and Galway, closed with the loss of 39 jobs.

With the UK-based parent company having disposed of the Irish subsidiary in recent weeks, staff and their representatives found it difficult to establish contact with the new owners during the two weeks’ notice they were given that the shops in Ireland were about to cease trading.

Mr Sheridan said one manager did eventually provide assurances that all payments due would be received and referred the staff to the company’s payroll department. They were then told that any further payments, including wages for February, would be a matter for liquidators, who are yet to be appointed.

“It’s a complete and utter mess,” said Mr Sheridan on Thursday afternoon, with some of the stores, at least, having closed in advance of schedule as staff walked out unsure if they would receive any further payments.

People Before Profit–Solidarity TD Mick Barry raised the issue during a Dáil debate on Wednesday of the Employment (Collective Redundancies and Miscellaneous Provisions) and Companies (Amendment) Bill 2023.

He said the five staff at the Cork branch were collectively owed more than €10,000, with one person due around €4,000.

Their plight was compounded, he pointed out, by the fact that the company had informed the Minister for Employment Simon Coveney on Wednesday that it was commencing the 30 day consultation process required under the Protection of Employment Act. This makes it more difficult for employees to take new jobs or claim social protection payments without being deemed to have left their employment voluntarily in advance of the conclusion of the redundancy process.

The Minister of State with responsibility for Business, Employment and Retail, Neale Richmond, told Mr Barry that there are provisions to allow the staff take up other jobs with affecting their entitlements, and subsequently clarified that while they could not claim jobseeker’s benefit, they could seek exceptional needs payments from a Community Welfare Officer.

“It seems to be another example of companies in this sector feeling they can walk away without repercussions,” said Mr Sheridan.

“Their attitude was, ‘we are in the UK, and we’re not coming over to Ireland to discuss this’, and because they are no longer in the EU, they no longer seem to feel that the legislation has any consequences for them.”

He said the union, which represents around a third of the staff, is in touch with the firm of accountants, McStay Luby, expected to be appointed as liquidators to the firm next week, but that it has said it is powerless to act until that process is complete.

The Body Shop’s UK owners said they could not comment while attempts to contact the owners of the Irish operation for comment proved unsuccessful.

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