Union officials to meet lingerie chain administrators over unpaid wages

Wed, Jan 11, 2012, 00:00

OFFICIALS OF the Mandate trade union will this morning meet administrators of lingerie chain La Senza, which made its 93 Irish employees redundant yesterday.

The meeting with KPMG comes as former employees continue a sit-in at one of the multinational’s Dublin branches, seeking assurances they will be paid wages and overtime owed to them. They say they will not leave the shop until all former employees are paid the money owed to them.

Three former employees will attend this morning’s meeting.

The chain went into administration on Monday, threatening 1,300 redundancies across more than 100 outlets in Britain and Ireland. It operated eight shops in the State, including concessions in Debenhams department stores.

Some of its employees were told they were being made redundant on Monday night. Some were told as they turned up for work yesterday morning.

The sit-in at the Liffey Valley branch began on Monday night and yesterday colleagues from the Grafton Street, Henry Street, Dundrum and Cork branches joined.

Tara Keane, who has been working at the Henry Street concession in Debenhams for four years, said staff knew “things weren’t good”.

“We were told all stock was half price on the 19th of December and we asked: ‘What’s happening? Are we closing down?’ And head office said, ‘No, no. We’re just getting our sale in ahead of competitors. Just trade as normal.’ They didn’t tell us what was happening.

“I was working until half six on Christmas Eve and I was back in at 7.30am on St Stephen’s Day, working every hour I was asked. We all did.” She was “very worried” she would not get the wages and overtime she was owed by La Senza.

The former employees have not been issued P45s. “We haven’t even got documents to go and claim social welfare,” said Evelyn Gaynor.

Mandate divisional organiser Michael Meegan, who was in the shop with the mostly female employees yesterday, described the company’s treatment of Irish staff as “deplorable”.

“They have been loyal and hard-working and there has been no communication from the company. The women are very frustrated, panicking. Some are lone mothers, some the only earners in the family, some are students.”

While employees were guaranteed statutory redundancy, “they could be waiting for a year for that”, he said. “The point is the company is throwing the burden back on the taxpayers. They made big money here and must pay these, mainly low-paid workers what they are owed.”

Ms Gaynor said the Liffey Valley branch had taken in more than €230,000 over Christmas. The sit-in was “not just about money”, she said. “It’s about how workers are being treated by these companies coming in and then trampling over workers when they’ve no more use for them.”

Asked about wages and overtime pay owed to staff by the La Senza company, KPMG said it was unable to comment.