Clerys worker: ‘I assumed laws would stop a firm closing like this’

Keith Doran got a call from HR manager to say there was no need to come in the next day

Keith Doran outside his former workplace, Clerys, on O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Keith Doran outside his former workplace, Clerys, on O’Connell Street, Dublin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Keith Doran (22) never thought his job at Clerys was a job for life – but he didn’t expect to lose it with half an hour’s notice.

He was working at the department store for almost three years and had no complaint about working hours or conditions.

“It was a great atmosphere in there. Everyone knew each other, it was like being in a big family really.”

Even when the department store was sold in 2012, and then closed for a time after it flooded, many felt their jobs were relatively secure.

Reports that the company was closing immediately, after 160 years in business, seemed to come out of nowhere.

“I was at home watching TV when my phone started buzzing,” he says.

“There was a message on Facebook saying Clerys had been sold. That’s when it all hit the fan.

‘Job already gone’

“I thought, ‘Well if it’s been sold, it’ll be a while before they do anything’. I didn’t realise my job was already gone.”

Shortly afterwards came confirmation the company had been liquidated.

He received a call from the human resources manager to say there was no need to come in the next day.

In all, more than 400 staff - direct employees of Clerys as well as those working for concession holders in the department store - lost their jobs.

Vulture capitalism

The sale - in which Boston-based Gordon Brothers separated the retail business from its property assets, before selling the latter to an Irish investment group - was criticised as a new and aggressive form of vulture capitalism.

There was no provision made for redundancy, holiday pay or other staff-related costs such as pensions.

“I assumed there were laws in place to prevent a company shutting down like this,” Doran says. “Apparently, I was wrong.”

He says he felt luckier than most workers, many of whom were older and with children and mortgages.

But it was a wake-up call that even secure jobs can be precarious. “I feel like in my dad’s generation they could walk out of one job and into another,” he says.

“These days it feels as if our jobs are hanging by a thread.

“If they don’t want you, you can be gone.

“If they want you, it’s a case of live another day.”