Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

HMV exits Ireland and leaves a bad smell behind

Workers left in the lurch as owners Hilco Capital liquidate the company the night before payments fall due

The shutters go down forever at HMV Henry Street

Mon, Sep 12, 2016, 09:28


It looks like HMV Ireland’s version of “Lanigan’s Ball” is drawing to a close. Since January 2013, the shops have closed, re-opened and now closed again. This time, though, it looks like there’s some unfinished business which means workers have been left waiting for unpaid wages and severance pay.

If you want to know why it comes as no surprise that the shops have closed, have a read of this piece which was written when new HMV owner Hilco re-opened the stores in August 2013. In a consumer world which has changed utterly and then changed completely again in the last few years, a shop like HMV is a bit of an anachronism. When it comes to music, TV and films, the action is online, be it Spotify or Netflix or whatever your entity of choice is at the moment. It’s not about going to a High Street shop and buying a piece of plastic. If you’re into this, though, there are far better places to go than a stock-em-high-sell-em-cheap-bar-vinyl chain like HMV. Even then, as we’ve seen with the closure of magnificent stores like Other Music in New York, it’s not a given that you’ll stay in business.

But there’s still the significant matter of the 50 workers at HMV’s four remaining Irish stores for whom the closure of the stores and the end of their employment has become particularly messy. Workers had been told in July and again last week that they would receive payments last Friday, but the stores were put into liquidation on Thursday night and the payments due were not paid. Workers took to social media to tell their tale so the company did what companies always do in cases like this. No, they didn’t actually do the decent thing and pay the monies due – they issued a statement. “All employees’ entitlements such as holiday pay and redundancy are protected by the state”, said Hilco, “and claims will be progressed as soon as a liquidator has been appointed.”

Meanwhile, the relevant account was suspended by Twitter. Just a pity the social media giant is not so fast when it comes to dealing with racist and misogynistic users of their service. Still and all, here’s a screengrab of the tweet in question thanks to the Rubberbandits

As the above tweet notes, Hilco also owned Xtravision, which they acquired for €5.5 million in 2013. However, this didn’t end well and the shops went into liquidation in January 2016 with 580 workers losing their jobs.

Hilco were one of the companies refered to as “rogue employers” by Joan Collins TD in the Dail earlier this year. “Calling for directors who create such shelf companies to be barred for life from ever being a company director again, Ms Collins said the State will have to pick up the bill for Xtra-vision workers who have been left “high and dry”, because the company had done the same as Clerys, Connolly’s Shoes, Paris Bakery and La Senza. She said “this is happening all the time and this Government has done nothing to protect those workers from that activity”.

The relevant government minister this time around is Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Social Protection has said his departmemt will deal “promptly” with the workers affected by the closure. However, it remains to be seen what, if anything, the government will do to solve the bigger problems caused when shelf companies come in and do their thing. As we’ve seen with Clerys’, even the employees of long-established entities are not immune to damage when these companies feel they can make a bigger profit by doing something else and workers’ rights can be bulldozed to one side. The workers fron the shops listed above will not, sadly, be the only casualties from this particular business manoeuvre.