Builder would only work on Clerys if owners met workers

Lambstongue window restorer wanted Natrium to meet the 460 people who lost jobs

 

Specialist building contractor Lambstongue refused to work on the redevelopment of the Clerys building in Dublin unless its new owners meet the 460 workers who lost their jobs after it was taken over.

Clerys closed suddenly last year with the loss of467 jobs when the Natrium consortium bought the store’s owner OCS Properties. That company recently applied to Dublin City Council for permission to redevelop the building.

It emerged over the weekend that Lambstongue, a contractor specialising in the conservation and restoration of historic windows, refused to get involved in the project unless Natrium met with the workers who lost their jobs when the original store closed.

‘Deeply uneasy’

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The company discussed it with its own staff and officials of trade union, Siptu, which represents Clerys workers. They told the company that the former employees had sought a meeting with Natrium but had yet to get get one.

“These are some of the best examples of post 1916 bronze and steel windows in Ireland, and we would have loved the opportunity to work on this building, but we refused to get involved unless the workers were granted a meeting. There was no meeting, and we didn’t get the job,” Lambstongue said.

“It is difficult not to appear a bit po-faced about taking such an action,” Lambstongue said, but if more construction companies took a similar stand the overall climate might for workers might improve.

Natrium’s shareholders are investment companies, D2, run by Irish businesswoman Deirdre Foley, which owns 20 per cent, and UK-based Cheyne Capital. Clerys closure sparked a public outcry. Natrium has said that the decision to put Clerys in liquidation was not taken by it, but by directors of a separate company, OCS Operations, who took ownership of the retail operation, while the decision to make the employees redundant was taken by the liquidators.

‘Selfless stance’

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Siptu official Ethel Buckley confirmed that Lambstongue contacted her seeking information about the treatment of Clerys workers. “I commend Lambstongue for the selfless stance that they have taken,” she said.

Lambstongue believes that it is the only company in this country capable of carrying out the work on Clerys’ windows. The owners may have to hire contractors from elsewhere for this part of the redevelopment.