AFTER 24 days and counting on the picket line, the dispute at the Wallis ladies clothing store on the Childers Road is showing no signs of abating.
Seventeen staff members - with a combined service of 240 years to the company - have now been on the picket line since September 23 over a dispute about redundancy payments and revised working conditions.
Ten staff members have received compulsory redundancy, while the remaining seven have been asked to re-apply for their jobs - with revised conditions attached.
“The company have refused the services of the Labour Relations Commission, and the talks at resolving this dispute at the moment are non-existent,” said Karen Wall, divisional organiser with the Limerick branch of Mandate.
“The company have shown a total lack of respect to their staff, which is completely devastating to them. They want to restructure the company without any costs incurred at all,” she said.
Furthermore, she said the company has processed two redundancy payments at the reduced rate of 2.75 weeks per year of service, while staff made redundant earlier received five weeks.
The unionised staff have refused to work for more than three weeks now, and have mounted the picket outside the store for seven days a week, nine hours a day. It is understood that the Childers Road store is being staffed by the former manager in the Cruises Street outlet, and another worker who has been drafted in by the company.
“We were told in late August that the Cruises Street store would be closing, which was awful. Then within a week we were all given letters to say we were all up for redundancy,” said one mother who was made redundant from the Childers Road outlet after 17 years.
“They handpicked girls that they wanted to keep on, but only for a few hours a week, and on a four week trial. It’s just crazy. We have all been so loyal to the company. We just want to be treated fairly,” she told the Limerick Leader.
“The public support has been fantastic. Very few people are passing the picket line. Our customers have been very loyal to us. We have been on first name terms with them and have grown close to them over the years,” she added.
“It’s just heartbreaking because I loved my job, and it was something that I did well.”
Wallis, which is owned by the Arcadia Group, has also announced that it is closing its store on Grafton Street this week. Workers there joined in solidarity with their Limerick colleagues this week by mounting their own picket. Staff at Blanchardstown have also voted to take action from next week.
The Arcadia Group - which is owned by Sir Philip Green - also owns with Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Evans and Burtons.
The closure of Wallis’ on Cruises Street followed the closure of Evans and Dorothy Perkins, while the company also pulled its Topshop stores from the city and the Crescent shopping centre in recent years. The all female staff at the Childers Road are aged between 40 and 72, and on average have worked for the company for 17 years.
“Now they are being penalised, but the women are determined they will finish what they started,” said Ms Wall.