JUST days before HMV’s two Limerick branches closed, local staff were told there were no plans for redundancies - and the stores would continue trading.
A communication, delivered to HMV’s Limerick managers from head office, acknowledged the company’s difficulties which have forced the British part of the firm into administration.
But the document then stated: “No redundancies are currently proposed, and all employees’ wages outstanding as at today will be met and paid as normal. All wages for work performed by employees from today onwards will also be paid as normal.”
But on Wednesday, less than two days after staff were given this news, a receiver was appointed to HMV’s stores in Ireland, and staff were told the previous letter did not apply. Some 28 people were put on temporary layoff, as David Carson, of Deloitte Ireland decided to close all of HMV’s Irish stores.
This forced a staff sit-in at Cruises Street and in the Crescent Shopping Centre, as workers sought full settlement of unpaid wages.
This ended at the weekend after Deloitte Ireland made a written commitment to pay all wages by Friday.
But the document has angered workers, who feel they were given false hope last week.
Now, Willie O’Dea is to raise the matter in a Dail debate, in a bid to get company law reformed.
He accused HMV of putting out a “misleading” letter to staff, and said promises of a staff helpline went unfulfilled.
“From the moment they occupied the premises, their email access and their telephone access to head office in Britain was cut off. There was no communication whatsoever,” he explained, “There are a number of businesses in Ireland which are basically run by UK multiples. There needs to be some change in the law - and I intend to raise this in the Dail during the week. If there is a shop in Ireland, owned by some firm in the UK, a separate Irish company should run the operation here, so we are clear on the rules,” he said.
Mr O’Dea said this could have prevented the closure of HMV’s stores here, and saved jobs. “Ironically, HMV Ireland is the most profitable division. The people at the Crescent told me over Christmas they had a €1.7m turnover.”
The three night sit-in was only brought to an end after intense negotiations between Deloitte Ireland, the workers, and the Limerick Trades Council.
Derbhla Peters, former manager at Cruises Street said there are still fears around payment.
“There is nothing legally binding, or in a contract, so we are going on trust really, and the fact we have received letters,” she said.
But Mr O’Dea has warned if wages are not paid, “this will be very high profile in the Dail next week”.
Ms Peters said because she is only on temporary lay-off, with the hope of an HMV takeover, she has been unable to claim mortgage payment protection.
Other staff are having similar problems, she said, and the hope is that the stores will be taken over.
“No-one cares if it becomes a pound shop, or a supermarket, or whatever. We just want to work,” she concluded.
A Deloitte Ireland spokesperson confirmed the initial letter to staff did not come from them.